When any of us get married, we all hope it will be forever. Sadly, for 42% of marriages in the UK, that turns out not to be the case, with the average length of a marriage for divorced couples lasting just 12 years.
There are numerous reasons why a marriage may fall apart, and infidelity is not always the reason for divorce proceedings. A simple breakdown in the relationship to the point where it cannot be repaired is widespread.
For some couples who marry young, both parties change as they mature and frequently what was jointly held ambitions become the ambition of only one. Couples often talk about ‘growing apart’, often as a result of work commitments and the pure inability to spend sufficient quality time together.
Divorce does not have to surround itself with acrimony and, what may surprise you, is that many couples remain very good friends even though the marriage has failed. This is especially beneficial where children are also involved.
More to the point, divorce does not necessarily mean you need to engage the (often costly) services of a lawyer or solicitor when it is entirely possible to get a divorce online.
So, are there any specific requirements that must be met before you can apply for a divorce online? The simple answer is yes.
First of all, you must both be in total agreement that you want to get divorced.
You must also be in total agreement as to how ‘property’ will be divided once the divorce has gone through.
Most importantly, you must meet one of the five options available as a legally acceptable ‘grounds for divorce’.
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years’ mutually consensual separation
- Five years non-mutually consensual separation
Finally, you must have been married for a minimum of 12 months and that you will be permanently resident in England or Wales.
If none of the above applies to your situation, getting divorced is not an option. These grounds do make good common sense.
As your marriage vows include fidelity, adultery means you have broken your marriage vows, and your spouse has the right to divorce you for such actions.
Nobody should have to remain in a marriage where the behaviour of their spouse can be deemed ‘unreasonable’. However, demanding your spouse puts the rubbish out or irons your clothes is not unreasonable behaviour.
Drinking heavily, abusive behaviour – both verbal and physical – restricting the personal freedom of your spouse, etc., would all be classed as unreasonable behaviour.
Desertion is where one spouse leaves the marital home without notice, leaving the other to fend for themselves, and any children, without any form of support, either emotional, physical or financial.
Separation, when consensual, is simply the mutual agreement for one or other spouse to leave the marital home but to not absolve themselves of any financial or, where applicable, parental responsibilities.
Separation, when non-consensual is where one or other spouse leaves the family home of their own personal will, despite any objections by their spouse or contrary to their personal wishes.
Key steps to file for an online divorce
Five steps need to be taken in order to end up with your decree absolute, which is a legal decree confirming that your marriage has ended, leaving both parties free to remarry should they so wish. Marrying before your decree absolute is a criminal offence and is classed as bigamy.
Step one: Find an online divorce service. If you Google “online divorce services UK” you should find an extensive list of options. Numerous companies offer a paid-for online service to help guide you through the process, or you can go directly to the government website www.gov.uk/apply-for-divorce.
Step two: Get a certified copy of your marriage certificate – this must be submitted, if you do not have the original to hand.
Step three: Complete the online application form and include the £550 online payment processing fee along with your application.
Step four: Once you have received all the necessary confirmation details from the government, you can then apply for your decree nisi. This confirms that there is no good reason why you cannot get divorced. The decree nisi will be issued by a court judge who will also set a nisi pronouncement date.
Step five: Apply for your decree nisi. You have to wait a minimum of six weeks after the date of the decree nisi before you can apply for the decree absolute, which will usually take a further two or three weeks to come through.
On receipt of your decree nisi, you are officially divorced.
Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences someone can go through. If the divorce is straightforward, you may be swayed into filing for divorce online. However, cutting costs can be a false economy.
Be aware that some online services are not regulated and do not have the required professional indemnity insurance. If there are any problems, you may not be in a position to claim compensation.
You may still need the advice of a family law solicitor for complex financial arrangements or children are involved.
A divorce lawyer will look out for your best interests at a time when you are vulnerable and might feel pressed into consenting to something that will not work for you in the long term; giving you practical advice and support to help you navigate through this legal minefield.
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