Getting divorced is a stressful time for couples. At MyLawyer we aim to make the process as easy and stress-free as possible by guiding couples through the required documents and forms. Before you can apply to get divorced, you must have been married for at least one year.

Divorce petition

The first step in the divorce process is to complete and file a 'divorce petition' referred to as a 'Divorce/judicial separation petition (Form D8)'. The divorce petition needs to be completed by the 'petitioner' (the person starting the divorce) and sent to the court in your area that deals with divorces. The petitioner's husband or wife is known as the 'respondent'.

Reason(s) you want to get divorced

In the divorce petition you will need to make clear the reasons why you want to end the marriage. Although commonly referred to as 'grounds for divorce', by law there is only one 'ground' on which you can end your marriage and that is that the marriage has 'irretrievably broken down'. This means that there is no possibility that you will reconcile with your spouse.

To show the court that this is true of your marriage, you will need to provide details to support the existence of any one of the following (referred to as the 'facts of divorce'):

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Living separately for at least two years and your spouse consents to the divorce
  5. Living separately for at least five years

Informing your spouse

Once the court has received your divorce petition, it will send a copy to your husband or wife, together with an 'Acknowledgement of service (Form D10)'. Your husband or wife will be required to complete this form and return it to the court within seven business days. In this form, your husband or wife will state whether they agree to the divorce or wish to argue against it (defend it).

Applying for a 'decree nisi'

If your spouse agrees to divorce (i.e. does not defend it), the next step will be to ask the court to consider whether you are entitled to a divorce and, if there are children, whether your proposed arrangements for them are in order. To do this you will need to complete an 'Application for a decree nisi (Form D84)', together with a 'Statement in support of divorce '.

There are five different statements in support of divorce and you will need to complete the one relating to the reason for your divorce. The statements are as follows:

If the court is satisfied that there are grounds for divorce, it will send you and your spouse a 'Certificate of entitlement to a decree', which will tell you the date and time when the judge will grant your 'decree nisi'. However, you do not have to attend court in person.

Applying for a 'decree absolute'

After decree nisi has been granted, and assuming you and your spouse are agreed on all the financial matters between you, you will be ready to take the last step. If, however, you and your spouse do disagree over financial matters, the issue will need to be resolved by the court via what is referred to as a 'financial order' or 'ancillary relief order'.

The final step is to get your 'decree absolute' which officially brings the marriage to an end.

To apply for a decree absolute, you will need to complete a 'Notice of application for decree nisi to be made absolute (Form D36)' and send it to the court six weeks after the date that your decree nisi was pronounced.