Initiating a Divorce in England and Wales

What should I do before I start a divorce petition?
Where do I start my divorce petition?
When are divorce county courts open?
How much will it cost?
How can I pay the fee?
Does the fee always have to be paid?
What information and documents do I need?
Which forms will I need?
Will I be able to fill in the forms myself?
What will happen when I have left the forms with the court?
How will I know when the respondent (and any co-respondent) gets the petition?
What will happen if the respondent (or co-respondent) does not receive the petition?
What will the respondent (or any co-respondent) do when they get the petition?
What will happen if they do not return the form to the court?


What should I do before I start a divorce petition?


 

Read About divorce. If you have children you should also read the pages on Children and divorce. You cannot start a petition for divorce unless you have been married for more than one year. If you still want to start a petition, read this section carefully. Make sure you have the information and forms it says you will need and a copy of your marriage certificate which is not a photocopy.


Where do I start my divorce petition?


 

You can start your petition in any Divorce county court, or in the Principal Registry in London. There is a list of a these divorce county courts here. The addresses and telephone numbers of these are listed in the telephone directory under Courts.


When are divorce county courts open?


 

Monday to Friday, between l0am and 4pm. The Principal Registry is open Monday to Friday, between l0am and 4.30pm.


How much will it cost?


 

You may have to pay a court fee. The court staff will tell you if you have to pay the fee and how much it is.


How can I pay the fee?


 

By cash, postal order or cheque. Make your cheque out to "HM Paymaster General".


Does the fee always have to be paid?


 

You will not have to pay if you are receiving:

  • Income Support
  • Family Credit
  • advice from a solicitor under the Legal Advice and Assistance Scheme (the "Green Form" scheme).
  • If you receive another state benefit or can show that paying the fee would cause undue hardship because of the exceptional circumstances of your case, you may not have to pay a fee. The Court Manager will decide on this.


What information and documents do I need?


 

  • Your own full name and address.
  • Your husband's or wife's full name and address.
  • A copy of your marriage certificate which is not a photocopy.
  • The names and dates of birth of any living children you have no matter how old they are.
  • The name and address of any person with whom your husband or wife has committed adultery, if you wish to name that person in your petition.


Which forms will I need?


 

You will need three copies of form D8 (divorce petition). If you have children you will also need three copies of form D8A (statement of arrangements for the children}. One copy of these forms is for you to keep, one copy is for the court, and one copy is for the court to send to your husband or wife. If you are divorcing your husband or wife because of their adultery with someone you are naming in your petition, you will also need a copy of the petition for that person. A copy of the form D8 notes to help you fill in your petition. If you think you may not have to pay a fee you will need form Ex160 (application for a fee exemption or remission). You must fill in one of these forms for each fee to be paid. Divorce county courts have all these forms. They will give them to you free.


Will I be able to fill in the forms myself?


 

For an example of what completed forms look like. They will help you fill in your own forms. They also explain the meanings of some of the words used in the forms which may be new to you. If you do need help filling in the forms, a Citizens' Advice Bureau will help. If a solicitor is helping you under the "Green Form" scheme, he or she will help you fill in the forms.


What will happen when I have left the forms with the court?


 

You will be sent a form D9H (notice of issue of petition) It will tell you when the petition was sent to the respondent. It will be a receipt for your fee (if you have paid one) and will tell you your divorce case number. It also tells you what to do if the respondent (or any co-respondent) does not reply to your petition. The court will post a copy of your petition with form D10 (acknowledgment of service) to:

  • the respondent (with a copy of the proposed arrangements for any children) and
  • any named co respondent.
  • The respondent (and any co-respondent) have 8 days to return the acknowledgment of service. The 8 days start on the day after they receive the petition.

The time for returning the acknowledgment of service will be longer if the respondent (or any co respondent) lives outside England and Wales.


How will I know when the respondent (and any co-respondent) gets the petition?


 

They will return their D10, (acknowledgment of service) to the court. The court will send you a copy. The example shows what a completed form looks like.


What will happen if the respondent (or co-respondent) does not receive the petition?


 

If the address you gave for the respondent (or co-respondent) is wrong, or they have moved, the Post Office will return the petition and other forms to the court. The court will tell you if this happens. They will send you form D9A (notice of non-service of petition). . If you want to carry on with your divorce you must find out the correct address (or addresses) and write and let the court know. The court will post the petition and other forms to the new address.


What will the respondent (or any co-respondent) do when they get the petition?


 

They may do one of three things:

  •  ignore the petition and not bother to return the form D10 acknowledgment of service) to the court;
  •  fill in the form D10 saying that they intend to contest your petition and return it to the court; or
  •  fill in the form D10 saying that they agree with the petition and return it to the court.

If form D10 is returned to the court by the respondent, or any co-respondent, the court will send you a copy.


What will happen if the respondent (or any co-respondent) does not return the form D10 (acknowledgment of service) to the court?


 

When 8 days have passed since the petition was sent, you should get two copies of form D89 (request for bailiff service), From the court. Fill in the forms D89 and return them to the court. Send them with a photograph or written description of the respondent (and any co-respondent) and a fee for each person being served. The court staff will tell you how much it is. The example shows what a completed form looks like. The county court bailiff will be asked to deliver the petition and other documents to the respondent (or co-respondent) personally.

If you have been sent copies of the respondent's (and any co-respondent's) form D10 (acknowledgment of service), read initiating divorce.