Family law
Explore a comprehensive guide to understanding the divorce procedure, including crucial steps such as filing the application, service of process, negotiations and mediation, application for conditional and final orders, and more. Navigate the complexities of divorce with our easy-to-follow overview, designed to illuminate the process and provide clarity during difficult times.

  • Filing a Divorce Application: The divorce process starts when one party (the applicant) files a divorce application to the court. Under the new law introduced by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, the couple can jointly apply for a divorce if they wish. The application will explain that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but it does not need to attribute blame to either party, following the "no-fault" principle.
  • Service of Process: The court sends the divorce application to the other spouse (the respondent), who will acknowledge receipt.
  • Negotiations: If there are disagreements over financial matters or child arrangements, the couple might enter into negotiations to try and reach an agreement. This can be done through solicitors or directly between the parties. If agreement cannot be reached, the couple may decide to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
  • Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM): Before applying to court to resolve disputes over finances or children, it is generally required that the applicant attends a MIAM. In this meeting, an authorised mediator provides information about mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. The purpose is to assess whether mediation or another form of dispute resolution might be appropriate for resolving the issues. There are certain exceptions, such as cases involving domestic abuse or where there's an urgent issue that requires immediate court attention.
  • Mediation: If mediation is deemed suitable, it can begin. Mediation is a process where an impartial third party (the mediator) helps the couple discuss and negotiate their disagreements constructively. The mediator does not make decisions but facilitates conversation to help the couple reach an agreement.
  • Decision of the Court: The court will consider the divorce application. If it is satisfied that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, it will issue a conditional order of divorce.
  • Conditional Order: This is the first legal step that confirms the court sees no reason why the divorce cannot proceed. A copy of the conditional order will be sent to both parties. After receiving the conditional order, there is a statutory waiting period of not less than 20 weeks from the start of proceedings before the applicant can apply to move to the next step.
  • Application for a Final Order: After the 20-week waiting period, the applicant can apply to have the conditional order made final. There must be a period of not less than 6 weeks and 1 day between the conditional order and the final order application.
  • Final Order: The court will grant the final divorce order, legally ending the marriage. Copies are sent to both parties. This used to be referred to as the decree absolute under the previous law.

This process is designed to help reduce conflict, but divorce can be a complex process that depends heavily on individual circumstances. Always seek legal advice when going through a divorce.