Headlines across the country recently told readers of the divorce between Louise and Jamie Redknapp and how they had a “quickie” divorce, with a hearing that lasted some 20 seconds. Celebrities appear to be heralded in the press as being able to race through the steps to achieve a divorce in seconds, leading many to ask the question: how does someone get a “quickie” divorce?
Unfortunately the headlines can be very misleading and in an area of law that is frequently mired in misconception and urban myth, the “quickie” divorce is simply another example of this.
The procedure for a straight-forward uncontested divorce in England and Wales is made up of the following basic steps:
- The Petitioner files a Divorce Petition with the court;
- The Respondent files an Acknowledgement of Service form with the court;
- The Petitioner applies for Decree Nisi; and
- The Petitioner applies for Decree Absolute
Whilst there are a number of complexities around filing (in terms of the grounds upon which the Petitioner may base the Petition, claims for costs etc) and the timing involved (for example the effect of financial proceedings/pensions etc), this process remains largely the same. Contested or particularly complicated circumstances can be more involved and require additional hearings/paperwork.
Factors such as “celebrity status” or the amount of financial resources do not change the process. It is usually a number of months between issuing the Divorce to obtaining Decree Absolute. In fact, it has been reported by a number of papers that Louise Redknapp may have filed for divorce in March 2017. The “quickie” divorce hearing of 20 seconds that the papers frequently refer to is the pronouncement of Decree Nisi. This hearing usually consists of a District Judge reviewing the (usually very brief) documentation to determine whether the required criteria for a divorce have been met. The parties are not usually in attendance at this “hearing” where matters are agreed/uncontested.
A Decree Nisi is a decree made by the court confirming that the Petitioner has established that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and so is entitled to obtain a Decree Absolute to finalise the divorce. It is effectively a conditional order of the court. However, it does not cause the couple to be divorced and in order to end the marriage, Decree Absolute must be obtained.
A Petitioner cannot apply for Decree Absolute until 6 weeks and one day after the pronouncement of Decree Nisi. Whilst there are a number of reasons to delay applying for Decree Absolute (in order to tie this in with financial settlement for example), there is no legal mechanism that allows the process of divorce to be sped up, in the absence of extraordinary factors such as ill health.
Given some of the backlogs that some courts are currently experiencing as a result of staff shortages and the large volume of divorce applications, it can take some time for the documentation to be processed by the court before being sent back out in the post to the parties. There is no current availability for divorce paperwork to be submitted online and everything is dealt with hardcopy. Therefore it is certainly impossible for a “quickie” divorce to take place in a matter of seconds in the way that is sometimes suggested by the press.
This misconception can lead to frustration amongst couples who have come to the conclusion that they would like to end their marriage, but it does provide the time required to deal with matters such as the division of finances and the arrangements for the children. Some have argued that the process provides couples time to ensure that they want to go through with the divorce and prevents knee-jerk reactions being commonplace (after all, how many of us have had arguments with loved ones which have been resolved over a period of time).
Regardless of the required process, matters between divorcing couples can remain amicable and there is no need for the divorce process to create any increased animosity between parties. The paperwork can be dealt with sensibly, with both parties having sight of documentation and providing input before it is sent to the court for consideration. However, expectations should not be that you can be divorced within the month – these things take time and regardless of your assets or celebrity status this remains true.
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