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How to: do your own divorce

18 May 2007

If your divorce is going to be straightforward and undefended and you and your soon-to-be-ex can agree on what will happen to everything – from money to children – why not cut the middle man out of the process, says legal editor, Maureen Mullally.
  • Complete the divorce petition, which you can download from the internet (visit www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk) or obtain from your local County Court. You will be asked about which ground you will be relying on: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years' separation with consent, two years' desertion, or five years' separation without consent. The court will then supply the appropriate form. You must send three copies of the Petition to the court, together with a Statement of Arrangements for any children you have and your original marriage certificate. You will be known as the Petitioner.
  • The Respondent (your husband or wife) will receive from the court a copy of your Petition, a copy of the Statement of Arrangements for the children, a Notice of Proceedings and a form called the Acknowledgment of Service, which confirms that he or she has received the Petition.
  • The Respondent must send you the signed Acknowledgment of Service with his or her consent to the divorce.
  • The court will send you a Notice of Issue of Petition.
  • You send to the court a form called Application for Directions for Trial and an Affidavit of Evidence (swearing the accuracy pf the Petition). These forms can be downloaded from the internet or will be supplied by the court.
  • A District Judge will consider the divorce papers and the proposed arrangements for the children. If the judge is satisfied, a certificate of entitlement to a decree will be issued.
  • The court will pronounce the Decree Nisi. This is a provisional decree pending resolution of financial and other matters. You may not be required to attend court for this. A Decree Nisi does not mean that you are divorced.
  • After six weeks you send the court an Application for Decree Nisi to be made Absolute on another form, which is available on the internet or from the court. When the court sends the Decree Absolute the divorce is complete.
  • There will be court fees to pay, but the DIY approach avoids solicitor's costs, which would be in addition to the court fees. If you feel that you need more support, Lawpack (www.lawpack.co.uk) publishes a book called DIY Separation and Divorce, which takes you through the process in more detail and provides examples of completed forms.
  • Although you don’t necessarily have to agree on all things financial to get as far as the Decree Nisi, if you think you might have trouble resolving money matters it’s a good idea to speak to a professional family mediator beforehand to help you reach an agreement. Find an accredited mediator near you by contacting The Family Mediators Association at www.thefma.co.uk

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