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The divorce process

How the divorce process plays out in England and Wales. It's slightly difference in Scotland and you can find that below.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Jan 10, 2022

The legal process

  1. The petitioner (ie the partner who wants the divorce) prepares the statement of arrangements for the children and sends it to the respondent.
  2. If the respondent agrees, he/she signs and returns it; if not, they meet and talk (possibly using a mediator/solicitor).
  3. Petitioner files the petition and statement at the court.
  4. The case is filed at the court, given a number, and both parties are informed.
  5. The court sends the respondent a form with questions about his or her intentions (an acknowledgement of service form).
  6. The respondent completes and returns this form to the court, which then passes the information on to the petitioner.
  7. The petitioner then swears and files an affidavit in support of the divorce petition and sends it to the court.
  8. The judge reads all the paperwork and, if satisfied, he/she fixes a date for a decree nisi and issues a certificate saying the arrangements for the children are satisfactory.
  9. The decree nisi is pronounced.
  10. Six weeks and one day later, the petitioner can apply for the final divorce.
  11. The court checks the file and sends a copy of the final decree to both parties.

"If your husband is the petitioner you need to get a solicitor to defend you to get the best deal for your financial future and that of your children. My ex-husband told me I'd get nothing. With a solicitor's help, I got a bit more than that." Pria

Understanding the jargon

  • Acknowledgement of service - form sent by court to respondent with questions about his or her intentions
  • Adultery - sexual intercourse by a husband or wife with someone of the opposite sex at any time before a decree absolute
  • Affidavit - a written statement containing a statement on oath
  • Ancillary relief - the financial or property adjustment orders the court can be asked to make 'ancillary' or alongside a petition for divorce
  • Child of the family - a child of both parties, or a child who has at any time been treated by both parties as a child of their own
  • Clean break - a once-and-for-all order that deals with all financial issues between spouses for ever, and is not variable even if circumstances change
  • Contact (formerly called access) - an order for the child to visit or stay with the parent with whom the child is not living
  • Decree nisi - document confirming that the grounds for divorce are established
  • Decree absolute - the final order dissolving the marriage

Related pages• Grounds for divorce• Divorce process • Divorce checklist• Getting divorce advice• Talk: separation and divorce• Legal aid cuts to family law 2013

The divorce process in Scotland

In Scotland, there is no minimum period you have to wait after marriage before you can bring divorce proceedings. A divorce is initiated by initial writ in the Sheriff Court or by summons in the Court of Session. 

There are only four facts on which you can base an application of divorce to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, non-cohabitation for one-plus years with consent of other person, or non-cohabitation for two years.