Understanding the divorce process

A practical guide to relationship breakdown

In today’s modern society, divorce is becoming a much more common practice. However, the increased social acceptance of divorce does not mean that it is the ideal solution for all couples facing marital disputes. In many cases, a period of separation can help couples realise their marital strengths and weaknesses. By doing so, couples can repair and preserve their relationship without having to resort to divorce. However, if you do decide that a divorce is the only way forward, we can advise you upon the legal aspects of the divorce process which you will need to follow.

It is in your best interest to hire a solicitor who is an expert in divorce law to make sure all paperwork is filed properly and on time. Solicitors can guide you through the paperwork and also represent you during the hearings that may be required to attend during your divorce (although this is rarely necessary).

Divorce is a 4 step process, and you can view an overview of this process on our main Family Law and Divorce Page. Our solicitors will answer any questions you may have before, during and after the divorce process. We will try to minimise the emotional toll that divorce proceedings can cause by swiftly following the appropriate divorce proceedings.


The petition is the first step of your divorce. Your solicitor will help you fill out and apply for the divorce petition. This paperwork requests permission from the court to divorce. It will highlight the reason you wish to end your marriage. There is only one ground for a divorce; that is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. In order to prove this to the court you can rely on the following legal facts:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour such as physical violence, verbal abuse, drunkenness, drugs etc, or refusal to spend time as a family etc
  3. Two years separation with consent
  4. Desertion in which your spouse left without an agreement, without a good reason, ended your relationship, or has been gone for more than 2 years
  5. 5 years separation

To file for a divorce you must have been married for at least one year. If you have lived apart for more than 5 years you typically do not need the other party to agree to the petition as the court will usually allow for the divorce.

Acknowledgement of Service

This is a piece of paper delivered to the respondent (i.e. your spouse). You are the petitioner. The Acknowledgement of Service is a form that must be filled out. There are questions such as; whether the petition was received, when it was received, and whether the respondent agrees to the divorce. If the respondent agrees then the next step can be taken. If there is any element of disagreement, then the timing of separation will come into play.

Decree Nisi

Your solicitor will help you fill out the application for the Decree Nisi; explaining to you what it entails and the steps you need to take. Ultimately, this application needs to be filled out when the spouse does not defend the divorce petition which you initially applied for and sent to the courts. This Decree Nisi document simply states that there is no reason why you should not be granted the divorce.

It is possible to apply for the Decree Nisi even if your spouse does not agree. However, there would be additional fees incurred which we would discuss with you at the appropriate stage of your divorce proceedings.

Decree Absolute

Once the Decree Nisi is approved through the Court, you will need to wait 6 weeks after the decree is in place. After this period of time, you will need to apply for the Decree Absolute; this is the paperwork which finalises your divorce.

During the 6 week delay, we will try to resolve any child or and financial issues which relate to your divorce, as financial and child arrangements are regarded as a separate matter. For more information on the divorce process, child and financial agreements as well as legal advice generally relates to the relationship breakdown, feel free to contact us and arrange a free initial 30 minute telephone consultation. Our team of seasoned family law and divorce solicitors will be happy to answer any questions you may have and can help to resolve all of your legal concerns.

Call us for EXPERT advice on: 0161 761 8099 or email us at: [email protected]

Meet the Team

Stephen Pinnington

Stephen qualified as a solicitor in 1993.

He has extensive experience with all aspects of family law including child arrangement applications, adoption, cohabitation, pre-nuptial agreements, domestic violence, separation agreements, and divorce.

Stephen has a particular interest in pensions and successfully advises on professional negligence. He is a highly skilled court advocate, but keeps jargon to a minimum and recognises the importance of dealing with clients sensitively and calmly