The Divorce Process Explained – and where Mediation comes in

If you are separating or divorcing and need to talk about property, financial matters or child arrangements, then mediation can help you work through each stage.

If you are considering making a Divorce Application, then you will be the Applicant. The other person receiving the Application will be the Respondent. The Applicant normally asks a solicitor to prepare and send the Divorce Application to the Family Court. The court checks it, allocates it a case number and sends it to the Respondent with a response form, the “Acknowledgment of Service”. If the Respondent confirms in this document that they agree to and will not contest the Divorce, then the Applicant asks the court to fix a date for the Decree Nisi. This is a date when the Judge will have checked the documents and will pronounce that the Divorce can go ahead.

Although a hearing date is set, if the Divorce is not contested and there are no costs issues to be decided, then usually neither of you are expected to attend.

What happens if there are Property or Finance issues to be resolved or Arrangements for Children?

During any of the above period you are encouraged to attend mediation, if you need to discuss matters relating to the Divorce. The advantage of negotiating through mediation rather than through solicitors or through the court process is that mediation can be quicker, cheaper and more collaborative. It follows a similar structure (requiring full financial disclosure) but the negotiations can be much more effective with you both in the same room, dealing with the issues together and making your own decisions depending on what works best for you and for any children.

If you reach a settlement through mediation, the Mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding setting out the terms agreed, and an Open Financial Statement setting out the financial disclosure. You can then instruct a solicitor to convert the Memorandum into a Consent Order, to be sent to the Court for the Judge’s approval.

The Consent Order can be lodged as long as the Decree Nisi stage has been reached. It cannot be lodged before then.

At what point is the Divorce complete?

There needs to be a minimum waiting period of just over 6 weeks from the date of Decree Nisi before the applicant can apply for Decree Absolute. If mediation discussions are still ongoing you can agree to wait before applying for the Decree Absolute. Often people wait so that the Consent Order and the application for Decree Absolute are sent to the court at the same time.

Changes to the Divorce Process

From late 2021 the divorce process will include an option for no-fault based divorce. This means an application for a divorce will be possible on the basis that both people agree a divorce should go through, and neither wants to allocate any blame on the other. It is hoped this will allow the process to be more amicable and constructive.

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