/ Divorce / Drafting the divorce petition

How to draft your divorce petition

The first formal step in getting a divorce is to complete a document that’s known as a divorce petition. 

This sets out the details that the Judge needs to see in order to consider your divorce application.


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.

How to draft your divorce petition

To start the divorce process you need to do three things:

  1. Complete a Divorce Petition
  2. Gather together any supporting documents you need
  3. Lodge everything at the Matrimonial Office
  4. Pay the required fee

Let’s look at each of the steps in turn.

1. Complete The Divorce Petition

Compiling a divorce petition itself is not a simple task, and it’s easy to make mistakes.

Because errors made on the petition can cause further delays and expense at a later stage, many people choose to ask a divorce solicitor to help them draft it.

You can find copies of the divorce petition forms here. You can also check out the original versions of the forms in the legislation.

Tip: If you would prefer to complete the documents without using a divorce solicitor, but are worried about making mistakes, you can arrange to have an interview with staff in the Matrimonial Office (contact details here). 

Unlike a divorce solicitor, Matrimonial Office staff cannot provide legal advice. But they can advise you on whether your forms are filled out correctly. You can also find other guidance on completing the forms correctly here

If you intend to fill out your divorce petition yourself, Appendix 2 of The Family Proceedings Rules (Northern Ireland) 1996 provides a useful list of what it needs to contain in order to be valid.

Because the judge uses your petition to decide whether or not to grant your divorce, it’s very important that it is filled out in full.

Make sure that the petition states that:

(a) your marriage has broken down irretrievably and

(b) specifies the fact your are using to prove this (Adultery, Unreasonable Behaviour, etc).

If you suspect that you might need the court’s help in coming to a financial settlement (known as “ancillary relief”) or to decide on childcare arrangements, you should say so in the “Prayer” section of the Petition.

Depending on your circumstances, supplementary forms might be required – we’ll take a look at those in the next section.

2. Gather Together Any Supporting Documents You Might Need

Below are some of the other documents you may have to submit with your divorce petition – which documents you need will depend on your situation (do you have children, do you have legal aid, etc).

You can find copies of the forms, plus other guidance, here.

  • State Marriage or Civil Partnership Certificate (from the marriage you are ending)
  • Statement of Arrangements for Children (if you have children) (Form M4)
  • Original Long Form Birth Certificates for any Children under 18
  • Notice of Proceedings (Form M5)
  • Acknowledgement of Service Form (Form M6)
  • Notice of Legal Aid (if you have legal aid)
  • Original Legal Aid Certificate (again, if you have legal aid)
  • Copies of any Agreements you wish to be made a rule of court
  • Certified copies of any previous court orders about your marriage or civil partnership
  • Details of CSA applications (if there are any)


3. Lodge Your Documents at the Matrimonial Office

Once you have everything completed, you can lodge your application at the Matrimonial Office, which can be found at:

The Matrimonial Office

Royal Courts of Justice

Chichester Street Belfast


Phone: 028 9023 5111

Fax: 028 90 322782

Email: [email protected]

You need to make sure that you include enough copies of the documents (at least 2 copies).

Remember that a copy of the papers will be required for your partner, plus any other co-respondents there might be named in the petition.

For example, if you are using Adultery as a fact, and you have named the person whom your partner had an affair with in the petition, you will need to enclose a copy of the documents for them too.

If you don’t include enough duplicates when you are lodging your petition, it will just cause unnecessary delay to your application.

So it is better to make sure that you enclose plenty of copies from the start.


  • Pay The Divorce Petition Fee

When you lodge your divorce petition, you will have to pay the court fee.

At the time of writing, the fee for lodging the petition is £237 (you can check the up-to-date fees here).

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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