/ Divorce / After lodging the petition

What happens after I lodge my divorce petition?

After you lodge your divorce petition at the Matrimonial Office, the staff will check that the paperwork is in order, after which the petition will be served on your ex-partner. 

They should then indicate whether they intend to either accept or contest the divorce petition.


This guide outlines general topics you should be thinking about if you want to get a divorce in Northern Ireland. But it is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, you should contact a specialist divorce solicitor for advice on your specific circumstances.

What happens after I lodge my divorce petition?

After you lodge your divorce petition with the Matrimonial Office, the staff there will check:

  • that you have completed the necessary forms
  • that you have included enough copies, and
  • that you have paid the correct fee

After the paperwork has been processed, it will be returned to you for “service” on your partner and any other co-respondents.

The word “service” simply means that the papers have been delivered to your partner.

You can “serve” the documents by:

  • sending them by ordinary first class post
  • sending them by recorded delivery (recommended), or
  • sending them via a process server

You should not serve the divorce paperwork yourself.

You should include the sealed copy of the divorce petition together with the Original Forms M4/M5/M6 (where necessary).

After your partner has received the documents, they should complete the Acknowledgement of Service (Form M6).

  • If they indicate that they consent to the divorce, your case will be listed for Decree Nisi hearing (we’ll look at this in greater detail below).
  • If they indicate that they intend to defend the divorce, they will have to file an answer to your petition.

If the divorce is defended, there will be a round of what are called “pleadings” – this is where each partner will provide evidence to support their positions, seek discovery of documents, exchange arguments, etc.

Once all of the documents are exchanged and in order, you must lodge the Certificate of Readiness and pay the court fee.

The fee for a court hearing, at the time of writing, is £296 for the county court and £355 in the High Court (you can see the current fees here).

(Remember that these are only the fees for the court, if you have legal representation their fees will be extra).

After the fee has been paid and the paperwork has been processed, your case will be listed for a court hearing.

You will receive notification by post, letting you know the date and time when your case will be heard.

We’ll look at what happens at the court hearing in the next section, but before we do that, we should take a quick look at some of the evidence you should consider gathering in anticipation of your divorce.

The above article is part of our guide on how to get a divorce in Northern Ireland.

If you are thinking about getting a divorce, you should get in touch with a Northern Ireland specialist divorce solicitor who will be able to provide advice tailored to your own personal circumstances.

If you have any questions, you are very welcome to get in touch.

All the best,

The Team @ Lightlaw
Every effort is made to keep this guide up to date. Although it is not to be regarded as legal advice, we strive to make sure the information is helpful, accurate and practical. If you are a Northern Ireland divorce solicitor and have spotted an inaccuracy, you can submit a suggested change.
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