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