Divorce & Separation

When your relationship is in difficulty it is hard to know which way to turn and to understand the options available to you. Some people come to see us to understand what options are available should they choose to take the next step and formally separate. Others have already made that difficult decision. Every individual is different and our specialist team are on hand to advise and support you through every stage of the difficult journey you are facing at whatever stage you are at.


Either party to a marriage or civil partnership can start proceedings. The person that starts proceedings is known as the Petitioner.


Proceedings can only be issued in England and Wales if the parties have been married or in a civil partnership for at least one year and if the court has jurisdiction.

The Petitioner will then have to establish that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably based on one of five facts, namely:

  • Adultery;
  • Unreasonable behaviour;
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation with the other persons consent; or
  • 5 years separation.

It is important to note, when relying on the fact of adultery, the conduct must be between the respondent and someone of the opposite sex. Sexual conduct with someone of the same sex does not constitute adultery.


The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 extends the right to marry to same sex couples in England and Wales. Same sex couples that have previously entered into a civil partnership are able to convert their civil partnership into a marriage.

When calculating the length of the marriage when a civil partnership has been converted, the date of the marriage is calculated as the date on which the civil partnership was entered into.


The Petitioner will have to file at court a divorce/dissolution petition along with the relevant court fee, the marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate and a statement detailing whether you have or have not considered reconciliation. The petition explains to the court why the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.

A copy of the petition will then be sent to the other side with a blank Acknowledgment of Service form. This will need to be completed by the other side to tell the court whether they agree to the divorce or dissolution being granted or whether they contest it.

It is a good idea to try and agree the contents of the petition with your partner before issuing it at court in order to avoid your spouse contesting the proceedings because they do not agree with what is contained within the petition. Contested divorce proceedings are often expensive and time consuming and where possible, should be avoided.

Once the court has received the signed Acknowledgment of Service form back from the respondent, the Petitioner is able to ask that the court pronounce Decree Nisi, which is the first stage in dissolving your marriage or civil partnership. The Petitioner is able to apply for Decree Absolute, which is the final stage in dissolving a marriage, six weeks and one day from the date of Decree Absolute, and if they delay in doing so, the Respondent may apply three months after the first date on which the Petitioner would have been able to.


There is a section of the petition called the Prayer where you are able to request that the court also deals with the finances for both yourself and any children. The court will not make any further orders in relation to these until you ask it to, but you will effectively be giving the court permission to deal with such matters if and when you are ready to proceed.


Uncontested divorce/dissolution proceedings usually take about four to six months from issuing the petition to receiving Decree Absolute, although the Decree Absolute is often not