The Divorce Process

The option of divorce is seen as a last resort where a marriage can no longer proceed.

Intital steps

As statute states, the marriage must have irretrievably broken down (Section 1(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 2973). The marriage must have lasted for at least one year in order to apply for a divorce, however this does not prohibit a party from relying on instances that occurred in the first year of the marriage. In order to show the court that such instance has occurred, the burden falls on the petitioner to rely on one of the following grounds illustrated at Section 1(2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973: 

  1. The Respondent has committed adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the Respondent;
  2. The Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the Respondent;
  3. The Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the divorce petition is presented;
  4. The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of two years immediately before the divorce petition is presents and the Respondent consents to the divorce; or
  5. The parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before the divorce petition is presented.

Divorce petition

Once the grounds on which the divorce is sought is decided, the drafting of the divorce petition commences. The petition is known as Form D8 and is drafted by the Petitioner or their elected solicitors. Prior to the divorce petition being filed, the Petitioner’s solicitors must discuss the option of reconciliation with their client. In order to evidence that such discussion has occurred, the solicitor must file a ‘Statement of Reconciliation’ (Form D6) alongside the petition. Upon completion of such documents, the petition, Statement of Reconciliation, original marriage certificate and the fee of £550 is sent to the Court for their directions.

The respondent

The Court will then return the divorce petition to the Petitioner which is now signed and stamped. The Court also forward the petition onto the Respondent, who is also served with an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ (Form D10). Upon receipt of the documents, the Respondent has 7 days from the date of service to file and return the Acknowledgement of Service to the Court stating whether they consent to the divorce or whether they wish to defend it. If the Respondent does not return the form within the specified period, the Petitioner will be able to take other steps to effect service of they may be able to proceed without service. Once the Court has been satisfied that service has been affected or dispensed, they will allow the Petitioner to proceed with the divorce.

Decree nisi

The next stage to the divorce is the application for Decree Nisi. A Decree Nisi does not dissolve the marriage however it is the first decree in divorce proceedings and it states that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and that it can be dissolved unless cause can be shown within six weeks from the decree that such dissolution should not be made absolute. When applying for a Decree Nisi, a statement supporting the information provided in the petition must also be filed. The form that is to be completed and submitted depends on the grounds that the dissolution of the divorce was applied for. The completed Acknowledgement of Service must also be submitted to the Court.

Upon receipt of the Decree Nisi being granted, the Court will provide the Petitioner and Respondent with a certificate of the Decree which states the time and date that the Decree was granted. After 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) from the date of the Decree Nisi, either party may apply for a Decree Absolute using Form D36 to finalise the dissolution of the marriage.

Summary Flowchart

Discussions regarding reconciliation


Drafting and finalisation of divorce petition


Divorce petition, Statement of Reconciliation, original marriage certificate and fee sent to the Court


Divorce petition and Notice of Service returned to Petitioner

Divorce petition and Acknowledgement of Service sent to Respondent


Respondent has 7 days from date of service to complete and submit Acknowledgement of Service to Court


Upon receipt of the acknowledgement of service, the petitioner files for decree nisi alongside the appropriate form in support of the petition


Court grants the decree nisi and provide petitioner and respondent with a copy of such decree


Either party must wait for 43 days until the application for decree absolute can be filed


Once application for decree absolute is submitted and such decree is granted by the court, the marriage is deemed dissolved