Family Law


The decision to divorce can be a difficult and emotional one that has a huge impact on you and your family. It is important that you choose a solicitor who will listen to you with sympathy and who has a deep understanding of your particular concerns.

Grounds for divorce

In order to proceed for divorce it needs to be proved that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably one of five grounds has to be proved. They are as follows:-

a. Adultery

b. Unreasonable Behaviour

c. Desertion

d. Two Years’ Separation and Consent

e. Five Years’ Separation.

Procedure if you are petitioner

In order to commence proceedings you must have been married for at least twelve months preceding the presentation of the petition.

The petition is drafted and will be sent to the court with your marriage certificate. The marriage certificate will not be returned by the court, but in any event it is only a certified copy of the main register which will be at the local Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths.

It is often advisable for us to make communication with the respondent before the proceedings are issued. This can ensure that if the ground is adultery then the respondent will admit the adultery. If the grounds are unreasonable behaviour then it is better for the respondent to know what is going to be said rather than it be a shock and they then decide that they may not agree to the divorce proceeding.

Even in cases where the respondent has in your view committed adultery, it is often better to proceed on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour due to the fact that the adultery needs to be proved. If the respondent fails to file the acknowledgement of service form then it can be difficult to proceed, and the proceedings can be drawn out and expensive, whereas with unreasonable behaviour all you need to do is to prove the service of the proceedings. If the respondent then fails to file the acknowledgement of service you can still go ahead with the divorce.

What happens to the Petition

The petition together with a small questionnaire called the acknowledgement of service is forwarded to the respondent. The respondent must return the acknowledgement of service to the Court.

What happens when the Acknowledgement is returned?

When the respondent returns the Acknowledgement of Service a copy is sent to the petitioner’s solicitors. The petitioner’s solicitors then draft a statement and the petitioner is called in to go through the same. The statement together with a form of application is then filed at Court. This in effect is the application for the Decree Nisi.

What if the respondent fails to file the Acknowledgement of Service?

If the respondent fails to file the Acknowledgement of Service then the petitioner needs to prove service. This is usually done by a Bailiff being instructed to serve the petition on the respondent.

What happens on Decree Nisi day?

There is no need for you to attend unless there is an argument in respect of costs. We will inform you if this is the case well in advance of this date. Attendance of the parties is positively discouraged as in reality all that happens is that at some point during the morning the Judge will pronounce the Decree Nisi that are listed at the Court.

When can I apply for the Decree Absolute?

If you are the petitioner you can apply for the Decree Absolute six weeks and one day from the date of the Decree Nisi. It is however sometimes advisable not to apply for the Decree Absolute if for example financial matters have not been settled. We will advise you of this nearer the time.

If you are the respondent then it is possible to apply for the Decree Absolute by making an application to the court three months after the first available date that the petitioner could have applied for the Decree Absolute. However, this application would probably be rejected if the petitioner is not applying for the Decree Absolute due to the fact that financial matters have not been settled. The application would only be successful if the petitioner was merely being awkward in not applying for the Decree Absolute.

How is the Decree Absolute applied for?

The Decree Absolute should be applied for within twelve months of the date of the Decree Nisi. If it is not then an explanation needs to be given to the court for the delay. The application for Decree Absolute is merely an administrative act which means that if you do require the Decree Absolute urgently and you are the petitioner then you could take the application up to the Court on the day and the court office would then issue you with a Decree Absolute as you waited.


Legal Aid funding is only available in certain circumstances and we will advise you regarding this at your initial assessment appointment. It is usual that the petitioner is entitled to the costs of the proceedings. There are however exceptions to this. Firstly if the ground for divorce is two years separation and consent or five years separation it is not usual for an order for costs to be made against the respondent.

It is sometimes the case that the petitioner may feel that they do not wish to pursue an order for costs as it will only cause difficulties. We will advise you at that stage if those instructions are provided.

Time scale

It usually takes about four months from the date of issue of the divorce petition to Decree Absolute. This estimate is on the basis that the respondent sends the acknowledgement of service into court immediately and that the Judge confirms the grounds and there are no procedural difficulties and finally that the petitioner applies for the Decree Absolute on the first available date. There is a statutory minimum period of six weeks and one day between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.

Contact Our Divorce Solicitors In Lancaster

Our specialist Family Law solicitors will deal with you with compassion and sensitivity and will guide you through this complicated and stressful process. We have many years of experience and we will try and minimise conflict where possible.

Douglas Clift & Co Solicitors will provide a free 30 minute initial consultation to assess your circumstances. We will then explain the costs involved and give you information about the funding options available to you.Contact us now on 01524 32437 or alternatively use ourcontact formto discuss this further.