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Family Law Blog

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Starting divorce proceedings UK

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How to start divorce proceedings in the UK.

Understanding the divorce process and what steps need to be taken is something people hope they will never have to think about but when they do it can cause anxiety and confusion. Where do I start? That’s often the first thought that goes through the mind of someone considering divorce.

Letting the other party know

When I am instructed by a new client who wishes to proceed with a divorce, my advice is to always try to keep matters amicable and as such we don’t want to take a confrontational approach to the process. Having established that they have grounds for divorce and on what basis the divorce will be sought an initial letter will be sent to their spouse. This confirms that we have been instructed to act on their behalf following the breakdown in their marriage. The initial letter will often set out the reasons for the breakdown and may seek the consent of the other party if their consent is required. I will always strongly recommend that they seek independent legal advice for themselves from a family lawyer. I like my clients to approve this initial letter so they are happy with what is being sent to their spouse. I may also suggest that they warn their spouse that a letter will be arriving (if they are on speaking terms that is), as this can help diffuse any tensions.

The divorce paperwork

For a petition for divorce to be prepared, a client must provide either the original marriage certificate or a certified copy (not a photocopy). If the parties were married abroad, and their marriage certificate is in a foreign language, a translation must be obtained. The original marriage certificate or certified copy is filed with the family court alongside the petition for divorce and it is retained by the court and not returned.

Paperwork, known as the divorce petition is prepared. In many cases, we will send a draft copy of the petition to the other party in order to keep matters amicable prior to presenting the petition to the court. It is always preferable for the parties to remain as amicable as possible to ensure that the divorce proceeds with delay or complications.

Once drafted and approved, the petition for divorce is presented to the court together with the marriage certificate and the court fee. The person lodging the petition with the court will become the petitioner and their spouse the respondent in the proceedings.

The steps towards divorce

Having kicked off the process in this way all divorce follows a standard procedure as set out in our brief video and webpage How to get a divorce. As the video explains the legal process of divorce does not deal with any financial claims or arrangements for your children. These matters are dealt with separately, often just by agreement between the parties. Where agreement cannot be reached lawyers, mediators or the family courts may become involved to help the parties reach an agreement or in the case of the courts to impose a judgement. As I always say to clients you should try and avoid your case getting to the court stage, if you possibly can, as its normally far quicker, cheaper and less painful to negotiate an agreement than to have one imposed.

I always say to my client’s that the first big step to take when you have decided that your marriage is at an end, is to contact an experienced family lawyer for some initial advice. That initial contact with a family lawyer is crucial to ensure that you make an informed decision and know what is involved, and how long the process will take. I always suggest that my client’s digest the initial advice and I am always happy to answer any questions that they may have prior to starting the proceedings. The client needs to feel ready to take that next step and be sure not to make any hasty decisions.

It is important to feel comfortable and at ease with your family lawyer and to receive advice which is easy to understand. Most of my clients are fairly sure that they want to start divorce proceedings by the time they first contact me, so my role is to put their mind at rest about what’s involved.

Claudette Jaggard-Inglis
Divorce & family lawyer, Wolverhampton

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