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How does Divorce work in Northern Ireland?

Our expert team answer your questions to guide on Divorce in Northern Ireland

How does the divorce process start, and how does it work in Northern Ireland?

Divorce in NI begins with lodging a Petition to the relevant Court citing the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down and the reasons.  If you lodge the Petition you are known as the Petitioner with the Petition served on your spouse or civil partner, known as the Respondent and they are required to respond to your Petition. There are two stages to the Divorce, the decree nisi hearing and the application for the decree absolute. Northern Ireland still has a solemn process in that the Petitioner will attend court to adopt their evidence for the nisi hearing.

A divorce petition is grounded on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and evidenced by any of the following:

  • A separation has been in place for two years and the other spouse has consented to a divorce
  • Five years separation
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery

Do we have to agree what will be happening to our children before the divorce?

If you have minor children together you will be required to complete and lodge a form confirming the arrangements for the children with your Divorce Petition, it is better to have an agreed position otherwise the court may not grant the divorce.

What do I need to prove to get a divorce?

You need to prove that your marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down and this is proved by declaring one/or more of five facts. There are three fault based facts;  Desertion | Adultery | Unreasonable behaviour (this could be alcohol, drug abuse, financial or physical abuse, inappropriate relations with another, etc.)

There are two non-fault based facts;  A ‘2 year ground’; a period of separation for 2 years or more and the other party consents to the divorce on that ground | A ‘5 year ground’; a period of separation for five years or more and consent of the other party is not required.  

Do we have to try mediation or counselling before applying for a divorce?

Attending mediation or counselling is a personal choice. Mediation can be an effective way of addressing ongoing issues that result from your separation such as contact arrangements with children and/or matrimonial agreements for finances both in the short and longer terms. It is important for you to seek advice should you wish to negotiate matrimonial finances or contact with your children. 

What information will my solicitor need to help me get divorced?

Your solicitor will require you to be forthcoming in respect of the reasons as to why your marriage/civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. Divorce often attributes blame and proofs will be required for any fault based grounds cited as the reason for the breakdown. Fault based grounds are Adultery, Unreasonable Behaviour and Desertion. Basic information will also be required including current addresses for all parties, marriage/civil partnership certificate, Birth certificates for children of the marriage/civil partnership, employment details and more. 

Do we have to go to court in person to get divorced?

This depends on the circumstances of your case. If you are the Petitioner you will be required to attend Court in order to have your Decree Nisi issued. The Respondent may or may not have to attend depending on whether they have consented to the Divorce, or if they are contesting it. 

How long does it take to get divorced?

This depends on the particulars of your case and also the timetable of the Court. Your solicitor will guide you through the process, step by step, once the circumstances are known and keep you up to date on its progress. 

How much is getting divorced likely to cost?

Again, estimates depend on the particulars of your case. Once these are known, your solicitor will provide a costs estimate if your case is straightforward, or if not,  provide a guide as to the costing. There are three court fees for a standard divorce and you should budget £800 to cover the court fees alone.  If the divorce is contested or becomes protracted, your solicitor may have to make additional applications to the court, for instance to prove service of your divorce papers on the other party, this adds to your costs.

Wilson Nesbitt offer monthly billing for our clients. We can secure Legal Aid if applicable. For a fault based divorce you may seek to have the party at fault pay for the divorce and if so awarded by the court so you may recoup this from the other party. 

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If you require legal advice from our team of expert family law solicitors, contact us on 0800 840 1363 or by making an email enquiry here.

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