Is it possible to get a divorce without going to court?
It is often possible to divorce without the need to attend court, but it is essential that related issues such as a financial agreement and arrangements for children are dealt with. You may well be advised to finalise these issues before you obtain a final divorce order, known as a decree absolute.
If you do not reach a financial agreement before you divorce, it could be open to your spouse to make a claim against you long into the future, as divorce alone will not end your responsibilities to each other.
The courts prefer that you reach an agreement between yourselves over issues such as the division of assets and matters relating to children. If you are able to make a financial agreement by way of negotiation or by using the mediation process, your agreed terms can be put before the court and sealed into a binding order. You will not generally need to attend court for this, your solicitor can send the documentation for it to be dealt with.
Similarly, if you and your spouse are able to agree on new arrangements for your children, covering issues such as who they will live with and what time they will spend with each parent, this can be put into a consent order.
Applying for a divorce
Once these issues have been dealt with, you can send an application for a divorce to the court together with a certified copy of your marriage certificate and the court fee, currently £593. The application can now be made online.
The court will send a copy of your application to your spouse who should sign and return an acknowledgement of service form confirming that they have received the petition. It is open to them to defend the divorce. If they do not, then you will then need to make an application for decree nisi. The court will review the application and if satisfied the marriage has irretrievably broken down the court will issue a decree nisi, the first stage in a divorce.
Once you have a decree nisi, you can ask the court to seal your financial agreement.
The final stage in the divorce is applying to the court for a decree absolute, which you can do six weeks and one day after the date of the decree nisi. It is vital that you ensure financial issues have been dealt with first however, or you may lose out on some aspects of a settlement. You should take legal advice to ensure that you are dealing with matters in the correct order.
Defended divorce & Financial disputes
If your spouse raises a defence to the divorce, you may have to attend a court hearing if you cannot agree on matters amicably. Similarly, if you cannot reach an agreement over division of assets, how property will be dealt with and arrangements for children you may also have to go to court. Mediation is a helpful first step in finding an acceptable solution to disagreements relating to children and finances and is usually a legal requirement before you can put the matter before the court.
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