/ Divorce / Court hearing

What happens at a divorce court hearing?

A divorce court hearing can be quite a daunting experience. 

Below are a few tips to help ensure that the day goes smoothly and is as stress-free for you as possible.


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 at a divorce court hearing?

For uncontested, uncomplicated divorces, the court hearing can be very quick.

Sometimes the whole thing is over before you really know it’s begun!

Often the hearing will be heard in private in the Judge’s room (known as “chambers”), but it can also be heard in open court.

Judges are used to people being nervous, and most of them are kind and understanding. If you have a solicitor, they will do most of the talking for you – just follow their instructions.

If you are representing yourself, you can start off by introducing yourself to the Judge with your full name, and state whether you are the Petitioner or Respondent.

Each Judge is different, but most of them will want to know:

  • who is bringing the petition (husband or wife)
  • the fact(s)/ground(s) that the petition is being brought under
  • when and where the marriage took place
  • if he/she can see the marriage certificate
  • that the petition has been served properly
  • that the marriage has broken down and there is no prospect of reconciliation (i.e. the main ground for divorce in Northern Ireland)

In addition to the above, the judge may ask other questions about the content of the petition too – the arrangements relating to children, etc., for example.

If the Judge is satisfied that the main ground of divorce has been proved – that the marriage has broken down and there is no prospect of reconciliation – they will grant what’s known as a “Decree Nisi” (or a “Conditional Order” in the case of civil partnerships).

The Judge will then usually say that arrangements for children and finances will be dealt with at a later date.

And that usually marks the end of the hearing!

But remember: a Decree Nisi is not your final divorce; it’s just the court order that allows you to apply for your final divorce.

We’ll look at how to do that next.

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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