The breakdown of a marriage is an emotional and stressful time and the prospect of having to undergo lengthy court proceedings is likely to be the last thing you want to contend with during such a delicate period. However, contrary to popular belief, most couples do not end up in court. A straightforward, undefended divorce will usually take 6-9 months to complete, depending on your personal circumstances and delays in court administration.
Factors such as whether the divorce is defended by either party, what arrangements need to be made for children and how assets will be divided between both parties all have an effect on the complexity and length of the total process. As such, they can either increase or reduce the time it takes to come to a conclusion.
The divorce process
If a divorce goes undefended, then it usually follows a straightforward process, with a number of notable stages:
- The first step of the divorce process involves the filing of the initial Application for Divorce. The respondent of the petition will have fourteen days to respond.
- There is a court fee to pay (currently £550) although there can be assistance for this subject to the satisfaction of income and capital thresholds.
- If the divorce is not defended by the respondent, or a judge rules that the divorce should go ahead at a hearing, a decree nisi will be issued, stating that there is no reason why the divorce cannot go ahead. This will normally take around 3-4 months from the application for Divorce being filed to Decree Nisi.
- Once a decree nisi has been issued, you will need to wait a minimum of 6 weeks and a day before you will be able to get a decree absolute. This is the final legal document that confirms your marriage is officially over. This can sometimes be delayed where financial issues remain to be settled.
What if my former spouse defends the divorce?
If for any reason your former partner elects to challenge the application for divorce, then the overall process will be slowed down. The respondent of the petition will have eight days to provide an initial response and, if they choose to defend, a further 21 days to explain their reasoning.
Both spouses will then be required to attend a court hearing, which could take months to arrange. A judge will hear evidence from both sides before making a decision over whether to grant the divorce or not. This decision can be appealed by both spouses by taking the decision to a higher court, or by applying with a fresh application for divorce. In a worst-case scenario, this may mean having to wait until you are separated for five years, at which point you can apply for a divorce without your former spouse’s consent.
If the judge grants the divorce and it is not defended any further, then a decree nisi will be issued, stating that the court sees no reason why the divorce cannot go ahead.
Using mediation to speed up the process
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method which is designed to open up a dialogue between yourself and your former spouse, helping you to sort out the arrangements and details of your separation with the guidance of a trained mediator.
Mediation will not alter the timetable for the actual divorce but can speed up the process of negotiation regarding finances and children issues.
Defended divorces are very rare and most divorces proceed undefended.
There are a number of advantages to using mediation, with one of the most significant being the fact that you do not need to wait for a hearing date. You can instead schedule your first mediation session whenever you, your former spouse and a mediator are available.
The number of mediation sessions you would need to attend would entirely depend on the complexity of your case and your respective schedules. Typically, most couples are able to come to an agreement after 3 to 5 sessions of about 1-2 hours. This means mediation can generally be concluded in about a month to 6 weeks.
Get in touch with our expert family law solicitors today
At Bird & Co, our expert team of family law lawyers are on hand to ensure that your divorce is as swift, straightforward and painless as possible. Our highly experienced team offer a sensitive, compassionate, yet highly practical approach, which allows you to protect your interests and those of your loved ones. We are also able to offer a range of family law services on a fixed fee basis.