There are five stages that a divorce petition must go through in order to reach the final stage, which is known as a Decree Absolute. When going through a divorce there are many different documents that need to be complete at different times, and each one must be completed correctly. The decree absolute is a court-issued document that legally ends your marriage and concludes divorce proceedings, allowing you to remarry and show that you are no longer legally connected with the other party.

Let’s take a look at the five stages involved in a divorce:

Stage 1: The Petition

The process starts when one party in the proceedings send their petition for divorce to the Court. It is often advisable to make the other party aware of the petition and a copy provided before this is sent to the court. When the petition is accepted by the Court, it will be allocated a case number, and additional copies of the petition will be sent to the other party in the divorce. The usual timeframe for this stage is around two or three weeks. The petitioner of the divorce will usually be expected to pay the Court fee of £550 and may choose to instruct a solicitor to manage the process which will incur additional fees. In certain circumstances, help with court fees are available, and more information can be found at GOV.UK.

Stage 2: The Response

The other party in the divorce will receive a copy of the petition sent from the Court. The party must respond by completing the acknowledgment of service form, and in most cases, this will need to be returned to the Court within seven working days. The form will confirm that the respondent is either happy for the petition to proceed or whether they contest the petition. It will also set out the respondent's position on a claim for any court costs and arrangements for finances and children involved in the relationship. If the acknowledgment of service form is not returned, the onus is on the petitioner to prove to the court that the form has been received. Additional costs may be incurred if a process server or Court Bailiff needs to hand-deliver the petition personally – this is known as deemed service, and in most cases will not be required if both parties are aware that the petition has been lodged with the court (hence why it is advisable for the petitioner to make the other party aware before the petition is submitted)

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Stage 3: Decree Nisi

When the acknowledgment of service has been returned to the Court, it is sent to the petitioner and they can then proceed to apply for a Decree Nisi. In the case where the acknowledgment of service has not been returned (but the petitioner can prove it has been served) then the application can still continue for a Decree Nisi. Application for a Decree Nisi requires a further application form and a statement confirming all facts of the case are true, and this must be submitted to the Court.

Once received, a District Judge will consider the petition, acknowledgment of service and any other relevant documents and decide if the petitioner is entitled to a divorce. If the petition is successful, The District Judge will issue a Certificate, which confirms the date, time and place the Decree Nisi will be pronounced. Unless the divorce is contested, there should be no reason for either party to attend court.

Stage 4: Order From The Court

Once the Decree Nisi has been pronounced, an Order from the Court will be issued. The Decree Nisi is the first decree in the divorce proceedings, and this shows that the petition has been accepted by the Court and the petitioner is entitled to a divorce, it is not until the final stage where the divorce becomes legal and the parties are no longer married.

Stage 5: Decree Absolute

A Decree Absolute is the final stage in the process and is the point where the divorce proceedings reach a conclusion, and the marriage is legally ended. The petitioner can apply for a Decree Absolute to be issued six weeks and one day from the date a Decree Nisi is pronounced.

If the petitioner does not apply for a Decree Absolute, the respondent can wait an additional three months to apply to the Court. In this instance, they must make the petitioner aware, and a short hearing will take place to ensure there are no further objections.

By this point, the divorce will be finalised and Decree Absolute will be issued by the Court, allowing parties to remarry, prove that the marriage has ended and continue with their lives.

How long does a divorce usually take?

From start to finish the whole process will usually take between four to six months. This, however, is dependent on a range of factors including both parties choosing to cooperate.

Do I have to go to court?

In most cases, you will not need to attend court during the proceedings. If a divorce is uncontested, and both parties agree - this is known as a straightforward divorce. Complications can arise including one party not agreeing for the divorce to go ahead, and this is known as a defended divorce, and these may need to be heard during a Case Management Hearing.

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