Advanced search

Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you have any legal concerns we suggest you consult a solicitor.


(13 Posts)
MessySituation Mon 01-Oct-12 20:03:25

Quick question.

What is the process for starting divorce court proceedings?

How long does it take to initiate once you've decided to go for it?

olgaga Mon 01-Oct-12 22:01:46

How long is a piece of string?

You might find this helpful:

Relationship Breakdown and Divorce – Advice and Links

It is useful if you can get to grips with the language of family law and procedure, and get an understanding of your rights, BEFORE you see a solicitor. If you are well prepared you will save time and money.


If there are children involved, their welfare, needs and interests are paramount. Parents have responsibilities, not rights, in this regard. Shared residence means both parties having an equal interest in the upbringing of the children. It does not mean equal (50/50) parenting time - children are not possessions to be “fairly” divided between separating parents.

A divorce will not be granted where children are involved unless there are agreed arrangements for finance, and care of the children (“Statement of Arrangements for Children”). It is obviously quicker and cheaper if this can be agreed but if there is no agreement, the Court will make an Order - “Residence and Contact” regarding children, “Financial Order” or “Ancillary Relief” in the case of Finance. Information and links to these can be found in the Directgov link below. Residence and Contact Orders are likely to be renamed Child Arrangements Orders in future.

Always see a specialist family lawyer!

Get word of mouth recommendations for family lawyers in your area if possible. If you have children at school, ask mums you are friendly with if they know of anyone who can make a recommendation in your area. These days there are few people who don’t know of anyone who has been through a divorce or separation – there’s a lot of knowledge and support out there!

Many family lawyers will offer the first half hour consultation free. Make use of this. Don’t just stick with the first lawyer you find – shop around and find someone you feel comfortable with. You may be in for a long haul, so it helps if you can find a solicitor you’re happy with.

If you can’t find any local recommendations, always see a solicitor who specialises in Family Law.
You can also find out about Legal Aid and get advice on the Community Legal Advice Helpline on 08345 345 4 345
Co-operative Legal Services offer DIY/Self-Help Divorce packages, as well as a Managed Divorce service. Their fee structure is more transparent and they have a telephone advice line as well as offering really good advice on their website:

You can read advice and search by area for a family lawyer here:

You will also read good advice and find a family lawyer here:

Some family law solicitors publish online feedback from clients – Google solicitors to see if you can find any recommendations or feedback.


You will be encouraged to attend mediation. This can help by encouraging discussion about arrangements for children and finance in a structured way in a neutral setting. However, it only works if both parties are willing to reach agreement.

If there has been violence or emotional abuse, discuss this with your solicitor first. Always get legal advice, or at the very least make sure you are aware of your legal rights, before you begin mediation. This is important because while a Mediator should have knowledge of family law, and will often explain family law, they are not there to give tailored legal advice to either party - so it’s important to have that first.

Married or Living Together?

This is a key question, because if you are married, generally speaking you have greater protection when a relationship breaks down.

Legal Issues around marriage/cohabitation and relationship breakdown are explained here:

DirectGov advice on divorce, separation and relationship breakdown:

Legal Rights and issues around contact are further explained here:

I found these guides from law firms quite informative and easy to read – there are others of course:


Before you see a family law solicitor, get hold of every single piece of financial information you have access to, and take copies or make notes. Wage slips, P60s, tax returns, employment contracts, pensions and other statements – savings, current account and mortgages, deeds, rental leases, utility bills, council tax bills, credit statements. Are there joint assets such as a home, pensions, savings, shares?

If you have no access to financial information, or you are aware that assets are being hidden from you, then obviously you will not be able to reach agreement on finances. If there are children, as you cannot divorce without adequate arrangements being agreed on finance and children, you will have to apply for a financial order anyway. If there are no children, and you are unable to agree on finances, you will also have to apply for a financial order (follow the links below). This seeks financial information from both parties going back 12 months. So it is in your interests to act quickly once you have made the decision to divorce.

If you are married, the main considerations of the Family Courts where parties are unable to agree a settlement are (in no particular order of priority):

1.The welfare of any minor children from the marriage.
2.The value of jointly and individually owned property and other assets and the financial needs, obligation and responsibilities of each party.
3.Any debts or liabilities of the parties.
4.Pension arrangements for each of the parties, including future pension values and any value to each of the parties of any benefit they may lose as a result of the divorce.
5.The earnings and earning potential of each of the parties.
6.Standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
7.The age of the parties and duration of the marriage.
8.Any physical or mental disability of either of the parties.
9.Contributions that each party may have made to the marriage, either financially or by looking after the house and/or caring for the family.

CSA maintenance calculator:

Handy tax credits calculator:

Handy 5 Minute benefit check, tax and housing benefit calculators:

Parenting issues:

Other Support for Women – Children, Housing, Domestic Violence and - Helpline 0808 2000 247 - Helpline 0844 8044 999 - Helpline 0808 802 0925
(Note that there is usually an appropriate link on these websites for England, Wales and Scotland where the law, advice and contact information may differ.

MessySituation Mon 01-Oct-12 22:20:53

Sorry thanks for the reply. I think I worded my question badly.

I am in the middle of negotiating a settlement and think that xh is about to put in an application for court proceedings as we have not been able to agree. I'm wondering how quickly he will be able to initiate proceedings and what the three process is.

STIDW Mon 01-Oct-12 22:51:10

In England & Wales once the court has received the Petition for divorce the papers must be served on the Respondent who has 7 days to file an Acknowledgement of Service with the court. Assuming the divorce isn't defended the Applicant then files an affidavit and asks for directions to proceed with the case. If a judge is happy that everything is in order he or she issues a certificate telling the parties when the nisi will be pronounced. Six weeks after the date of the nisi the Applicant may apply for the final decree, the absolute. Alternatively the Respondent can apply for the absolute decree 3 months later than the Applicant.

When there are children there is a Statement of Arrangements to complete and finances are dealt with separately. That's very important. If there is no order settling the finances on divorce either party may make claims against the other in the future even though the couple are divorced. Usually the finances are settled after the nisi has been granted and before the absolute.

The notion of a "quickie" divorce is a myth. If someone was lucky they might be able to do it in 4 months but if the arrangements for children and finances cannot be agreed and the Acknowledgement of Service is not returned there is a delay and it can take significantly longer.

In Scotland is different.

Collaborate Mon 01-Oct-12 23:02:13

Divorce takes an average of 6 months IME.

Financial applications take around 6-9 months to get to final hearing (depending on the local county court).

Either application can be issued in the blink of an eye.

MessySituation Mon 01-Oct-12 23:04:47

Thanks STIDW.

We've progressed with the things you mention and have the nisi but it now looks like a judge will need to consider the evidence. That's the step that I'm interesting in understanding.

mumblechum1 Tue 02-Oct-12 04:22:29

OP, say your husband files his Form A tomorrow, the court will,within 7 days of receipt issue standard directions including an order that you both file Forms E within about 6 to 8 weeks.

The First Appointment will be in about 10 to 12 weeks depending on how busy your local court is.

Often the First Appointment can also be used as a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing, ie the judge knocks your heads together and tries to get you to agree. This only happens, however, if you have both been upfront with your disclosure.

If the head knocking exercise isn't succesful (and 4 out of 5 times, ime, it is), then there's a final hearing about 10 weeks aftr the FDR.

So best case scenario it gets sorted within 10 to 12 weeks, worst case is 6 months unless your local court is massively slow.

MessySituation Tue 02-Oct-12 06:32:56

Thanks very much.

That's exactly what I needed to understand.

In your experience if one party's disclosure is not good and it looks as the financial position is maybe being understated what is likely to happen?

Collaborate Tue 02-Oct-12 06:47:37

You deal with that in your questionnaire. Ask your solicitor to send you the standard directions made by the court when the financial application was issued. That will clearly set out your timetable to the first hearing.

MessySituation Tue 02-Oct-12 06:57:23

Thanks. We had a questionnaire after the first form e. Responses were given but job info very light nothing on ow. Will we need to go through that process again?

olgaga Tue 02-Oct-12 07:21:01

What on earth is your solicitor doing? She or he doesn't sound very engaged if you are having to come on here and ask what is happening at this stage!

MessySituation Tue 02-Oct-12 07:46:17

Just awaiting xh's next steps and suspect he is going to advocate court as next step. Solicitor bills high so I was seeking advice here in the first instance.

Collaborate Tue 02-Oct-12 09:40:30

"job info very light nothing on ow". Not sure what this means.

If a questionnaire hasn't been fully responded to a request is made to the other side for a fuller response and if that doesn't elicit a satisfactory response then it has to be referred back to the court.

It's dangerous though asking a bunch of anonymous strangers to tell you what to do, as we know next to nothing about your case. Your solicitor's bills are high due to the fact that they are providing you with a professional service that you can rely upon.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now