The court has an online portal which enables couples to deal with their divorce themselves. Here are our tips for submitting a divorce petition online.
If you wish to start a divorce online yourself to minimise legal fees, these are our top tips. Although we always recommend you take advice specific to your circumstances before you take any steps, so that you can avoid any pitfalls.
The marriage certificate
When submitting your divorce petition, you will need to have the original marriage certificate. The court will require you to send them a complete photographic copy (including all four corners of this visible) when submitting the petition. You will also need to include the exact date of marriage and the names as stated on the marriage certificate in the petition.
Divorce petition court fee
There is a one off fee which must also be paid when the petition is submitted. This is currently £550. However it is also worth checking whether you could apply for fee exemption (if you are eligible for this, it is means tested).
Keeping your financial claims open
You can do this by making sure you tick the box in the divorce petition called financial claims. You may not be intending to apply to the court to decide your financial settlement, in the hope that you will agree terms in mediation but it is a worthwhile exercise to tick this box so that you could still apply to the court at a later date if negotiations in mediation are not successful.
This is particularly important if your financial negotiations continue beyond the end of the divorce process and you remarry.
As the petitioner you have the option to ask the court to make an order for the respondent to pay your divorce costs (court fee and your legal fees only in relation to the divorce, which excludes financial negotiations). It is purely a matter for you whether you wish to ask the court to make this order or not and goodwill can be bought by forgoing a claim where affordable to do so. You may prefer not to include this to help keep things on an amicable basis between you. If you do wish to ask the court for this, you must make sure you tick the box in the petition called costs orders.
Tax year of separation
The relevance of the tax year and the timing of your decision to separate permanently (often marked by the date of your petition) is important if you have significant assets outside of your home which might be subject to capital gains tax. You have the remainder of the tax year in which you separate to transfer non-exempt assets between you as a couple without incurring an immediate tax bill.
It is therefore important to consider the timing of your separation and the tax implications if you and your spouse own more than one property or business assets.
The risk of concluding the divorce ahead of resolving financial matters
As the petitioner in the divorce process you will have most control over the timing of each stage. After considering when to start the divorce (as explained above) you need to progress it to the decree nisi stage as soon as possible. This opens up the court’s financial powers to either approve a financial settlement you agree or help you resolve the finances if you can’t.
However, although you then have 6 weeks and one day after which you can apply for the decree absolute, that would change your status and has implications for pension benefits after death and the effectiveness of Wills. It can be vital to resolve the finances properly, especially if you need a share of your spouse’s pension.
Final advice for submitting a divorce petition online
Whilst handling the divorce process yourself online can be a good way to reduce fees, make sure you take advice first and keep your solicitor informed of your progress so you don’t make a move which could have an unforeseen consequence on the finances.
The portal can be accessed here.
If you have been sent a divorce petition by your spouse and are unsure of how to respond, please see our previous article here.