How to get a divorce

Getting a divorce is often an extremely difficult time. As well as the emotional stress, filling out and filing divorce forms may be the last thing you want to do.  But if it's something you would like to take on yourself, the main steps are covered below.

How to file for divorce

There are three basic parts of filing for a divorce:

  • Filing a divorce petition
  • Applying for a decree nisi
  • Applying for a decree absolute

Each of these applications requires certain types of information, and must be applied for over particular time frames. 

How to fill in a divorce petition

Only one person needs to fill in a divorce petition to start the process – officially called a Divorce/dissolution/(judicial) separation petition.

The form will explain each area that needs to be covered, with prompts for answers. The form is quite long, and requires information about the marriage, any children, reasons for divorce, and so on.

You can fill in the application online or you can do so by hand – whichever feels more comfortable for you.

It’s important that you’re truthful when filling in this information, for example, you should not list the reason as adultery if your former partner has not been adulterous.

Filling out the Statement of Case

There is a major section of the form called ‘Statement of Case’. This is where you write the specific reasons for divorce, and the events that have led to the irretrievable break down of the relationship.

While these reasons are very personal and may be difficult to relive, it’s important that they are written clearly and objectively.

There are a few causes that are recognised as justifiable for divorce, but each must be explained on the divorce petition properly:

  • Adultery – You shouldn’t include the name of the person your spouse has slept with, just the date it occurred, and how you found out.
  • Unreasonable behaviour – Six reasons need to be given for unreasonable behaviour.
    This should follow the structure of: “The Respondent’s [explain the behaviour], has caused the Petitioner [explain the negative effect].” For instance: “The Respondent has obsessive standards, which has made the Petitioner feel inadequate and anxious on a daily basis.” A solicitor will be able to help you list the most relevant behaviours, if you are unsure what to write.
  • Desertion – Your partner will need to have left the relationship for at least two years, so providing an accurate date of when they left will be vital.
  • Two years’ separation – Write the date you stopped living together, and make a note that your spouse consents to the divorce.
  • Five years’ separation – Again, list the date you separated and that your spouse consents.

There is a fee of £550 at the start of the divorce, which can be paid over the phone, in person, or by cheque to the HM Courts and Tribunal Service.

You’ll need to send three copies of the divorce petition to your nearest divorce centre, and keep a copy for yourself.

How to apply for a decree nisi

A decree nisi is essentially a document that states the court doesn’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be given a divorce.

Once you’ve sent the divorce petition, the court will send your spouse the relevant paperwork, and they can either contest or agree to your application for divorce.

You will then be sent an Acknowledgement of Service form, and an Application for a Decree Nisi.

A Statement in Support of Divorce should be completed.  This gives the court more details about the reason for divorce you mentioned in the petition. You’ll need to include:

  • The name of the court
  • The case number
  • The name of the petitioner
  • The name of the respondent
  • Answer the questions about reading certain documents, and if you wish to alter anything (state what you wish to alter if so)

Then, you can begin to fill in the decree nisi. This will include the same information as the above, and the rest of the document depends on whether the divorce is defended or undefended.

If it is undefended:

  • Include your full name, and what you are applying for (a decree nisi)
  • Sign the ‘statement of truth’
  • Create a blank document, simply stating Exhibit A
  • Staple together the statement, the blank document, and the acknowledgement of service form
  • Add a covering letter (including your name, address, divorce centre name, case number, case name, and details about what is included in the pack)
  • You can then send this to your nearest divorce centre for the decree nisi to be complete

If your case has been contested by your spouse, seek legal representation. You are likely to have to attend at least a mediation session, if not court. Your solicitor will be best to advise you to your best course of action in this situation.

Once you have sent the application for decree nisi, you’re likely to receive confirmation in about a week. Once you have this, you must wait at least six weeks to apply for a decree absolute, to make your divorce official.

How to apply for a decree absolute

The final part of filing for a divorce is the most straightforward. You should download the Notice of Application for a Decree Nisi to be made Absolute (D36) form. It will ask for details of:

  • The name of the court
  • The case number
  • The name of Petitioner
  • The name of Respondent

You simply need to fill in the boxes detailing who is requesting the decree absolute, and the date.

Attach the form to a cover letter giving all the relevant information about the case, and what is included in the form.

Once you have sent this to the court, you can expect to receive the decree absolute in about a week, and your divorce will be final.

Need extra help with applying for a divorce?

No divorce is totally straight forward, but if your spouse is refusing to cooperate, you may need legal advice to help you get the settlement and terms you deserve.

We can assess your individual requirements and put you directly in touch with an experienced divorce solicitor.

More divorce and family law services


Note: First4Lawyers offers this information as guidance, not advice. Before taking any action, you should seek professional assistance tailored to your personal circumstances and not rely on First4Lawyers’ online information alone.

Get in touch today to discuss your requirements 08005677866

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