Guide to preparing your own Divorce Documentation

Dated:

Legal Aid was withdrawn from scope at the end of March 2013 for the majority of family cases. The Reforms will see a significant rise in the number of people who will be representing themselves at Court and preparing their own Court documents. A number of people have already prepared their own divorce documentation using leaflets issued by the Court and the internet for guidance.

This is a useful guide to assist if you do wish to prepare your own divorce documentation.

Terminology

The person who starts the divorce is known as the "Petitioner". The other spouse will be referred to as the "Respondent". The divorce petition is the document that will need to be submitted to the Court setting out the reasons why you are seeking a divorce. If there are any dependent children that are your biological children or children that have been treated by both parties as children of the family then an additional form known as a "Statement of Arrangements for Children Form" will need to be completed and forwarded to the Court also setting out the arrangements for the children after you have separated. The Court need to be satisfied that the arrangements for the children are the best that can be possibly achieved in the circumstances before the Court will allow the divorce to be progressed.

Why get a divorce?


A divorce must be obtained if you wish to remarry otherwise you will commit the criminal offence of Bigamy. In limited circumstances it is possible to apply to have a marriage annulled i.e. dismissed. Parties can only apply for a divorce once their first wedding anniversary has passed. There is only one ground to obtain a divorce and that is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. You then need to satisfy the Court that one of the following facts can be relied upon:
  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable Behavior
  • Desertion
  • Two years separation with consent
  • Five years separation – no consent required

Sending the documentation to the Court


The Petition and Statement of Arrangements for Children form need to be forwarded to the Court in triplicate together with your original Marriage Certificate, a photocopy will not suffice together with the relevant Court fee currently £340 (as at 09 April 2013). Cheques must be made payable to HMCTS i.e. Her Majesty’s Court & Tribunal Service.

How long will it take?


If the divorce is undefended as most are, it will take approximately 4 to 6 months from the point you issue your Petition at Court until the divorce can be finalised.

Once issued, the Court will forward a copy of the Petition and if relevant a copy of the Statement of Arrangements for Children form together with an Acknowledgement of Service form to the Respondent.

Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute


Once the Respondent has completed the Acknowledgement of Service form indicating whether the divorce will be contested or not, the Court will forward to the Petitioner a copy of the Acknowledgement of Service form which will enable the Petitioner to apply for the middle part of the divorce known as the “Decree Nisi”. This requires a signed statement in support of the Petition to be forwarded to the Court. There is no fee for this application. The District Judge will then consider the Petition and if it is considered that you have proven the contents of your Petition, a Certificate of Satisfaction will be forwarded to the Petitioner confirming this and advising of the date the Court will have fixed for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi. Six weeks after the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi, the Petitioner can apply to the Court to finalise the divorce by applying for the Decree Absolute. This attracts a Court fee of £45.

Can I get legal help now legal aid has gone?


Whilst Public Funding will no longer be available as from 1st April 2013 for divorce proceedings, Simpson Millar have introduced alternate funding for those requiring legal advice and representation in Family matters. The Access to Justice system was launched as at the 1st April 2013 which is a heavily discounted Family Law Service. In addition, Simpson Millar will offer initial advice and assistance to help you prepare and commence your Divorce case with a £118.80 divorce package scheme.

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