Legal firm Ison Harrison can help get you through a divorce
The stress of the pandemic has seen divorce rates rise around the world, as relationship stresses are pushed to breaking point by lockdown restrictions.
For family law experts Ison Harrison that has meant an unprecedented number of people looking to get help with one of the most challenging legal issues they may ever face.
And as they know all too well, without getting the proper advice, one or both of those involved could wind up losing a lot more than they had bargained for.
In a bid to help those considering divorce or just starting out on the process, they have drafted an eight-step guide outlining the best way to navigate a complex process.
Step 1: Consultation with a family law solicitor
Engaging a family lawyer can feel daunting, but they will help guide you through the process step by step and you should book an initial consultation as soon as possible.
A family lawyer will establish the reasons for the marital breakdown, get an understanding of financial assets involved and discuss potential disputes around children.
Step 2: Preparing the divorce petition
The next step is for the lawyer and client to assess if the marriage should result in divorce. At this point a petition or application for divorce can be drafted.
There is only one ground for divorce granted by the Family Court, and that is the ground of the marriage having ‘irretrievably broken down’. There are, however, five ‘facts’ in law, one of which must be established by the applicant to divorce to allow them to demonstrate to the court that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’.
To divorce inside a two-year separation period a fault-based fact must be relied upon - either that of the other spouse’s unreasonable behaviour or their adultery.
Step 3: Sending the draft petition to the respondent
The next step in the divorce process is for the draft petition to be sent to the respondent party to the divorce (the non-petitioning spouse).
The petition deals with:
● If the petitioning party is seeking for the costs of the divorce to be paid by the respondent party
● If a financial order from the court is requested (to reflect the division of financial assets in the marriage)
The draft petition can help with early negotiation and engagement from both parties so it is an important part of the process.
The respondent party is encouraged to engage a solicitor at this stage in order to ensure they have expert advice through the divorce process.
Step 4: Issuing of the divorce petition at court
Once the divorce petition has been sent to the respondent party as a draft, and hopefully an agreement reached as to its terms, then the divorce petition is ready to be submitted to the Family Court.
Along with the petition you’ll need to:
● Pay the court issue fee of £550 for issuing the petition
● Provide evidence of the marriage certificate
Step 5: Acknowledgement of Service Form
Once the petition has been issued the court will send a court-sealed (stamped) version to the respondent party (non-petitioning spouse).
Along with the divorce petition is a form called an ‘Acknowledgement of Service Form’. This must be returned by the respondent within seven days of it being received.
The Acknowledgement of Service Form enables the respondent to confirm whether or not they intend to contest the divorce. It is very rare to have contested divorce hearings.
Step 6: Decree Nisi
This is often known as ‘the middle stage’ of the divorce. The petitioner can apply for a Decree Nisi once the court has provided them with a copy of the respondent’s Acknowledgement of Service Form.
How does the Decree Nisi work?
1. A district judge will have considered the petition and acknowledgement form and decided on ‘entitlement to a degree of divorce’.
2. Once the judge is satisfied that there should be a divorce then a Certificate of Entitlement to a Decree will be prepared. This certificate will set out a date for the procurement of the Decree Nisi in court.
3. At the hearing for Decree Nisi pronouncement, the parties will have reached the Decree Nisi point in the divorce.
Step 7: Submitting of consent orders or determination of Financial Remedy Proceedings
This step in the divorce roadmap is usually where parties will want to resolve the financial aspects of division of assets.
Any agreement as to the financial split of assets and liabilities can be prepared as a Consent Order and approved by a District Judge often as a paperwork (non-hearing based) action.
Where financial aspects are disputed then often the court is asked to make a Financial Remedy Order at this divorce stage. This is where a District Judge decides on the division of assets for each party.
Step 8: Decree Absolute
The final step in the divorce process is the application for Decree Absolute and the production of the Decree Absolute by the Family Court.
The earliest point this can be applied for is six weeks and 1 days from the date of the Decree Nisi.
It marks to the formal end of the marriage - although the parties are free to re-marry if they so wish after achieving Decree Absolute.
Get expert help
If you’re heading for divorce and unsure where to start, contact an expert family lawyer for advice.