How long does a divorce take?

The divorce process usually takes between five to seven months from the beginning of the proceedings to the Decree Absolute (awarding of the final certificate needed in the divorce process, which legally dissolves the marriage). This is often called the main suit by lawyers. The main suit is started by the Petitioner (the person asking for the divorce) who presents a divorce petition to the Court along with the marriage certificate.

What are the grounds for divorce?

There is only one ground for divorce. A Petitioner must prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, by showing one of five facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable Behaviour
  • Two years of desertion
  • A two year separation to which both parties have agreed
  • A five year separation (where the Respondent does not have to agree to the divorce for it go through).

What happens next?

Once the petition has been issued at Court, the Court Office sends the divorce papers to the other party (known as the Respondent) who replies by completing the Acknowledgement of Service. This will show whether or not they intend to defend the case. If the proceedings are undefended then the Petitioner completes an affidavit (a formal sworn statement of fact) in support of the divorce petition and applies for the Decree Nisi (the first decree, or certificate granted when a court is satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce). The Judge will review the paper work and if they are happy then a Decree Nisi is awarded. Attendance at Court is not required.

Does that mean I am now divorced?

No it doesn’t. The Petitioner cannot apply for the Decree Absolute (the final certificate which legally dissolves the marriage) until six weeks and one day has passed. If this application is not made then the Respondent has the right to make an application after another three months has passed.

Until given the Decree Absolute, the parties remain married to each other.