How does the Divorce Process Work?

When two people are married, their affairs are legally bound together. This means that in order to effect a complete separation, a second legal process—divorce—is required. When a marriage breaks down irreparably, divorce is the most common end result. Getting a divorce doesn’t usually require that the couple go to court, but often both parties benefit from legal advice when dividing property and arranging custody of children. After recently requiring the services of a divorce solicitor in london (who was really helpful) I decided to provide an article on the process and the steps that people often have to go through.

What steps are involved in getting a divorce?

Filing a divorce petition

Getting a divorce must always start with filing a petition, even if the petitioner doesn’t want to take their case to court. To file a divorce petition, the petitioner must have a justifiable reason for ending the marriage. Justifiable reasons include adultery, desertion, separation, and unreasonable behaviour (for instance, abuse or alcoholism).

Decree nisi

A decree nisi is a legal document that states that there is no legal reason why a divorce can’t be granted. To get the decree nisi, one partner fills in an application form, and the decree is granted providing the other partner doesn’t object. If the other partner raises an objection a hearing must be held so that a judge can determine whether the decree nisi should be granted.

Decree absolute

The decree absolute can be granted no earlier than six weeks after the decree nisi is granted. The waiting period allows time for the divorcing couple to raise any last-minute issues about any matters relating to the divorce. After the waiting period the petitioner files a decree absolute request, and after the documentation is checked by the courts, the decree is granted. At this point, the marriage is ended in the eyes of the law.

Asset distribution and child custody

Financial and custody arrangements are usually decided on via two similar but separate processes. If a divorcing couple are unable to agree on either issue they must try to sort out their differences via a process such as mediation or collaborative law before resorting to the court system. In these processes the two partners meet, along with their solicitors, to try and come to an agreement. If mediation breaks down they can then apply to the courts for help.

The legal processes by which child custody and asset distribution are agreed on are separate from the process of getting a divorce, but sometimes a partner may contest a divorce due to issues with asset distribution or child custody arrangements.

How can a solicitor help you with your divorce?

Even if you don’t need to petition the court system, a family law solicitor can provide invaluable help and advice during a divorce. Whether or not you’re the one initiating divorce proceedings, there’s a lot that a solicitor can do to make this difficult process go more smoothly. For instance, a solicitor can:

  • Provide legal advice at every stage of a divorce, including advice on matters relating to child custody and asset distribution.
  • Help you complete and file legal forms.
  • Help you calculate the value of marital assets, and work out what share you’re entitled to.
  • Provide legal advice, and attend meetings with you, during the meditation or collaborative law process.
  • Help you apply to the courts for asset distribution or child custody issues.
  • If you have been the victim of domestic abuse, a solicitor can help you apply for a protection order.

If you would like to find a lawyer in the UK, you can search for divorce solicitors on

Divorce doesn’t necessarily have to involve the court system, but even when you and your partner mostly agree on all the issues relating to your divorce, it’s still helpful to take advice from a solicitor, especially when it comes to asset distribution and custody arrangements.