The quickie divorce agreement myth

7th March 2015 by

 

Open any tabloid newspaper, even the broadsheets on occasion, and you will read reports of celebrity couples swiftly obtaining their miraculous “quickie divorce”, however, family law in England and Wales has no such proviso for a specially shortened version of a divorce agreement and each spouse, alongside his or her divorce solicitor, will have to abide by legal conventions pertinent to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (henceforth the Act) .

All marriage and civil partnership dissolution proceedings can be commenced only after at least one year of the union and only after the proving of one of five facts. Under section 1 of the Act the only possible ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and the petitioner (the spouse who files an application for divorce with a court) must satisfy the court that one or more of the Act’s five facts has taken place.

The Five Facts:

  • that the respondent (the spouse being divorced by the petitioner) has committed adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the respondent;
  • that the respondent has behaved in such a way that the petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent;
  • that the respondent has deserted the petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition;
  • that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition and the respondent consents to a decree being granted (two years’ separation and consent);
  • that the parties to the marriage have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately preceding the presentation of the petition (five years’ separation).

No matter how difficult or unpleasant a couple’s situation may be, there are absolutely no circumstances that can precipitate the granting of a divorce before one year of the marriage has ensued (other than a nullity decree).  Under section 3(1) of the Act, as amended by section 1 of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984, petitions for divorce or dissolution before one year are irrefutably barred and there are no circumstances by which this rule can be overturned.

Not so ‘quickie’ divorce

From the time a divorce application or petition has been lodged with the court and a Decree Absolute is granted to legally end the marriage, leaving the parties free to remarry if they so wish, usually takes a period of months (around five to six in most undefended divorces with no unusual circumstances) and depends largely on the number of divorces being heard at the court and whether there are any matters which may cause a complication in the divorce.

Often, journalists will report on celebrity proceedings and when the Decree Nisi (the precursor to Decree Absolute) is granted in open court they use the term “quickie divorce”.  At this time the couple is in fact not yet fully divorced and, no matter how far up the A list they may be, the petitioner will still have to wait six weeks and one day from the granting of the Decree Nisi until they can apply for their Decree Absolute.

There are a few exceptional circumstances where a court may grant a reduction in the six week and one day rule, but in almost all cases the wait is mandatory.

Divorce agreements in London and Brighton

Naturally, every divorce agreement stands alone and a couple’s particular personal circumstances can affect how long the process will take to complete.

Our family law team has a proven track record in successfully advising and representing clients in a wide range of sensitive family law issues.

Whatever your issue, you can rely on us to deal with your case sympathetically, efficiently and always in confidence.
If you wish to discuss any aspect of your divorce case with the family law solicitors at Healys please contact Catherine Taylor on 01273 669 124 or email catherine.taylor@healys.com for Brighton. For London please contact Jane Sanders on 020 7822 4107 or email jane.sanders@healys.com.