In many cases the Final Order is the end of a divorce. However, this is not always the case. If you are planning to divorce, you should be aware of the additional action you may need to take once you have agreed a financial settlement and your Final Order has been granted.
What are the legal requirements to obtain a divorce?
Following the introduction of ‘no fault divorce’ in April 2022, the legal requirements to begin an uncontested divorce proceedings became:
- Having been married for at least 12 months
- Being able to present your marriage certificate (or a certified copy of the original)
- Knowing both the residential and email address of your ex-spouse
- The presentation of a statement citing irretrievable breakdown as part of a completed D8 divorce form
- Paying the court fee of £593 (unless you’re exempt)
You will also need to provide the court with a residential address to which your divorce papers can be sent.
What are the four stages of a divorce?
In England and Wales, the divorce process is highly structured. It is based on four stages, all of which will require a separate application to be made to the court. The four stages of a divorce are:
1. The submission of a D8 Divorce Petition
To begin your application, you must complete and submit a divorce petition form (the D8). This can now be done digitally but you must ensure all the information you provide is correct and complete. If anything is incorrect or omitted, your application will be returned, and you will have to start the process all over again.
This document presents all the personal information and marital history required to progress your divorce proceedings, including your statement confirming there has been an irretrievable breakdown in your marriage.
2. The Acknowledgment of Service
The court will send your partner a copy of your divorce petition along with a form known as the Acknowledgment of Service.
Your partner then has 14 days to complete and return the Acknowledgment of Service to the court.
If they don’t respond it is possible to continue with the divorce, but the process becomes more complicated. In the first instance you will need to convince the court that your spouse definitely received the divorce papers and had a chance to respond but chose not to, possibly because they are not willing to engage with your request for a divorce.
3. The Conditional Order
Current divorce laws include a 20-week reflection period. This is to allow couples to come to agreements on the key issues, for example how their children will be cared for and how their assets will be divided in the financial settlement.
Once this 20-week period ends, you can make an application to the court to tell them you want them to proceed. If this application is approved, you will be issued with a Certificate of Entitlement. This will confirm the date by which you will receive your Conditional Order. This is a document that confirms the court sees no reason why you cannot divorce.
Once this has been granted, you will have a 6-week ‘cooling off’ period to make absolutely sure you want your divorce to be finalised. Many couples use this time to submit their financial agreement. The court will rule on whether the agreement is fair once the ‘cooling off period’ ends.
4. Application for the Final Order
The final stage is to make one more application to the court. When approved, this will legally end your marriage. This is known as the Final Order.
Is the Final Order the end of a divorce?
Once the court makes the Final Order (what was previously known as the Decree Absolute), you are no longer legally married and free to re-marry or enter a new civil partnership.
However, the Final Order will not protect you should your former partner make any additional financial claims against you in the future. This makes it even more vital to deal with every aspect of your finances and, more specifically, shared financial ties during the divorce proceedings.
In most cases it is advisable to obtain a Clean Break Order once you have divided your assets and your financial settlement has been agreed by court order.
A Clean Break Order legally confirms that you have a reached a decision as to the division of your assets, property, and finances. As such it cuts any remaining ties between the parties so prevents either spouse from making any future claims against the other. This can offer a much needed additional level of security if you think you are likely to earn or inherit a level of wealth that could provoke your former spouse to make a claim for more money.
However, a Clean Break Order is not always suitable. If, for example, the financial settlement stipulates maintenance payments are to continue for a prolonged period, the financial ties between the parties cannot be severed. Working out whether a Clean Break Order is an appropriate course of action will require advice from an experienced family lawyer.