No. 10 - Divorce Procedure In Northern Ireland
The divorce procedure in Northern Ireland has three main stages: service of the divorce petition; decree nisi; and decree absolute.
One spouse (the 'petitioner') must file a petition asking the court to grant a divorce - a couple cannot ask for a divorce together, even if they both want it.
After the court receives the divorce petition, it sends a copy to the other spouse ('the respondent') and any co-respondent named in the divorce petition (e.g., a person who had an affair with the respondent). This is known as 'serving the petition.'
The respondent has eight days to acknowledge receipt of the petition. If they don't do this, the court will contact the petitioner and ask for more details and, if necessary, arrange for a court official - known as a bailiff - to serve the petition in person.
What happens next hinges on whether or not the respondent contests the divorce or agrees to it. The parties will need to agree a deal regarding ownership of money and property, and arrangements for children (if any). Mediators or solicitors can help the parties negotiate an agreement that is fair.
The next stage in the divorce process is the 'Decree Nisi.' This is granted only when a judge has reviewed all of the divorce papers and is satisfied that there are proper grounds for a divorce. The judge will also check that all financial issues and arrangements for the children have been agreed or are in the process of being resolved. The parties may be required to attend court, but many divorces happen entirely by post.
The divorce procedure in Northern Ireland ends with the 'Decree Absolute.' The petitioner can obtain this six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi. If the petitioner does not apply for the Decree Absolute, the respondent can apply for it, but only after a further three months have passed. Once the Decree Absolute is issued, the parties are no longer married and are free to re-marry.
The court will only grant the Decree Absolute if it deems all arrangements for the children are satisfactory. The court can also make a final financial order before the Decree Absolute is granted, but the order will only come into force after the decree has been made absolute.
** Additional Information & Advice **
You can obtain further information about the divorce procedure in Northern Ireland on FindLaw.
Depending on your circumstances, however, you may want to speak with a solicitor who specialises in family law. You can be matched with a family law solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.