Mythbusting the ‘quickie’ divorce

    When a celebrity couple breaks up and goes to the courts, the press are quick to report that they have had a ‘quickie’ divorce.

    What the media seem to be referring to is the length of time it takes for the judge to read the pronouncement of the decree nisi, forgetting that couples are not properly divorced until decree absolute.

    It is incredibly common for the parties to deal with financial proceedings between the decree nisi and decree absolute, a time scale which can range from anywhere between 6 months and 18 months (sometimes less, sometimes much more). The time scales involved much depend on the case itself.

    Given the emphasis on ‘quickie’ divorces in the press, however, perhaps it’s not surprising that divorcing spouses are confused to discover the divorce process is not always quite so quick.

    Here, we aim to bust the myth of the ‘quickie’ divorce, and set out the actual timescales couples are working to.  

    The procedure for a divorce

    1. Issue the petition at court
    2. Court sends the petition to the respondent
    3. Respondent files the acknowledgement of service. The Respondent may defend the divorce, though this is not common.
    4. Petitioner files a statement in support of divorce, and an application for decree nisi.
    5. Divorce petition is considered. If it is decided that the divorce can proceed, a certificate will be granted to that effect. This sets out the date on which the decree nisi will be granted.
    6. Decree nisi will be pronounced on the date indicated on the certificate. This is the hearing often mentioned in the press when they report on ‘quickie’ divorces. Many articles state that neither party attended the hearing – actually, it is incredibly unusual for anyone to attend court to listen to the pronouncement of the decree nisi. Lawyers often advise their clients that it is neither expected nor necessary.
    7. Six weeks and one day after decree nisi has been pronounced, the Petitioner may apply for the decree absolute. If there are ongoing financial remedy proceedings alongside, the couple will tend to put off applying for the decree absolute until such time as the finances have been negotiated and an agreement reached. Depending on the complexities of the case, this could take anywhere between 6 and 18 months. The decree absolute is, in fact the decree that legally ends the marriage.

    Not so quick after all!

    The trick is in the name: nisi = nearly there. Absolute = absolutely there.

    So, the next time you read another celebrity ‘quickie’ divorce story, keep in mind that the entire process is likely to be anything but quick!

    Find out more about the divorce procedure here