This blog post relates to previous divorce laws. On 6 April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was implemented, heralding no-fault divorce. Read more in our blog post: No-fault divorce – the end of the blame game
Recent press reports suggest that Ant McPartlin and his estranged wife, Lisa Armstrong, were granted a divorce, “in (just) 30 seconds”. In fact, they weren’t. All that had happened is that a Judge had pronounced their Decree Nisi.
As the law currently stands, anyone seeking to obtain a divorce needs to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This is the only legal ground for divorce in the England and Wales.
To show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, the person who starts proceedings has to show that one of five facts exists:
That the parties have lived apart for two years, and both consent to the divorce, or
That their partner deserted them more than two years ago, or
That they have lived apart for five years, when no consent in required.
When the media talk about quickie divorces, they are usually referring to the pronouncement of Decree Nisi. This is when, effectively, a Judge reads out the list of the names of people who are entitled to a divorce. As there is usually no need for anyone to actually be present throughout the whole divorce process, such pronouncements are usually made to an empty Courtroom.
Although Decree Nisi has been granted, Ant and Lisa Armstrong remain married. They are likely to do so until their future financial arrangements have been settled, including the vexed question of who should have primary care of their much loved Labrador, Hurley.
Although it is possible to apply for Decree Absolute, which brings a marriage to an end, 6 weeks and 1 day after Decree Nisi, it is usually wise to delay this step until the Court have made an order regulating financial arrangements – a clean break order. It is essential that those getting divorced seek early advice about the impact of the divorce upon their financial rights; a hasty application for Decree Absolute could cost you dear.
What the media do not always make clear is that the whole divorce process usually takes months, not weeks, and sometimes years. There is initial paperwork, the couple deciding (or arguing about) who will start the divorce process, the various forms that have to be completed, and the time required to resolve their future financial arrangements.
Often it is very far from a quickie divorce.
What does the future hold?
On 15 September 2018, the Government launched a consultation about whether or not to radically alter the divorce process, to do away with the requirement to find one party at fault. The consultation arose following the case of Tini Owens, who was refused a divorce because, although the Judge agreed that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, he was not satisfied that Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour was such that Mrs Owens “could not reasonably be expected to live with him”.
Although the consultation, which runs until 10 December 2018, may result in no-fault divorce, this does not necessarily mean that the divorce process will be speeded up. Indeed, it may take longer as parties may be required to engage in a “period of reflection”, which might extend the minimum time between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute, possibly significantly.
Whatever the outcome of the consultation, divorce does not need to be contentious. Our Family Law Team can help you negotiate the divorce process and try to ensure that it is stress-free as possible, to include resolving any financial issues that might arise.
Are you considering getting a divorce? Download our free guide and find out the six key decisions you need to make.