Frequently asked questions in an initial meeting for divorce article banner image

After arriving at the decision that you are to divorce, it is usual to arrange an initial meeting with a solicitor. There will undoubtedly be a whole host of questions which need addressing and it is difficult to answer these in just one meeting. It is important to make the most of your initial meeting and we frequently find that a handful of questions are raised at the start of almost every divorce matter. Some of these questions have been set out below.

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Should I be the petitioner or the respondent?

In every divorce, the person bringing the divorce petition to court will be the Petitioner and their spouse will therefore be the Respondent. The benefit of being the Petitioner is that you are able to control the timing of the proceedings. Given that the Petitioner’s solicitor will deal with the drafting of the petition and other documentation, their costs will necessarily be higher than the Respondent’s. However, in many cases costs are shared between the parties, or at the very least, a contribution from the Respondent can be sought.

Do I go to court for the divorce?

Divorce proceedings should be seen as distinct from financial issues. The divorce proceedings deal only with the divorce itself, being the legal mechanism for dissolving the marriage. If the divorce is not defended and there is no issue as to who should be responsible for the costs, it will not be necessary for either party to actually attend court for the divorce. However, if a financial settlement cannot be reached out of court, an application will sometimes be issued to sort out the financial issues.

What are the timescales?

The average divorce will usually take 6-9 months. There are certain rules which govern how quickly the divorce can progress and it is therefore not always a swift process. The draft petition will be sent to your spouse and they will be given 7 days to respond. After that time, the petition can be filed at Court. Once the petition has been issued and acknowledged by the Respondent, the matter can progress to Decree Nisi. The Court will pronounce Decree Nisi on the “next available date”. This date is within 4 weeks after the application has been made. The rules state, that a period of 6 weeks and one day must pass from the date of Decree Nisi before an application for Decree Absolute can be made. In reality, unless financial proceedings have been issued, it is during this period that the financial settlement is negotiated and if possible, agreed. This can take many months and as a consequence it can take quite some time before the divorce can be completed. This is because it is not advisable to end the marriage by obtaining Decree Absolute before a financial settlement has been reached.

Should I name the Co-Respondent where there has been adultery?

In circumstances where the reason for divorce is adultery, the petition provides an opportunity for the Petitioner to name the person with whom their spouse has committed adultery; the Co-Respondent. As a rule of thumb, we would generally advise that the Co-Respondent is not named. This is because, they will otherwise become a party to the divorce proceedings and they will have to be served with all documentation. This increases costs and delay and in most cases is therefore unadvisable. It also has a tendency to increase acrimony between parties which is not helpful when trying to agree other matters.

At Stephens Scown, we offer a first half an hour free in all initial meetings so don’t hesitate to get in touch either by calling 01392 2010700 or by email 

Find out more about our family law team