Family Law Expert Reveals Long Process Behind Formal Separations
There is more to so-called ‘quickie’ divorces than the 92 seconds it took for a court to rule on the separation between actress Elizabeth Hurley and businessman Arun Nayar, a family law specialist at Irwin Mitchell has advised.
The Principal Registry of the High Court ruled that the divorce could be granted, citing Mr Nayar’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ as grounds, in a hearing that took just over a minute and a half. Neither of the pair attended the court as the Decree Nisi was handed down.
However, Nathaniel Groarke, a family law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Manchester office, has warned those looking to separate that a ‘quickie’ divorce involves a longer process than many probably anticipate – and that the couple’s own case is technically not over yet.
He explained: “Despite being called ‘quickie’, the type of divorce procedure that Ms Hurley and Mr Nayar have gone through is actually now the standard. This means that proceedings are resolved on paper and the parties do not need to attend court.
“However, the Decree Nisi is actually traditionally the mid-point of the divorce, as only on a pronouncement of Decree Absolute can a marriage be finally terminated.”
Discussing the process, Nathaniel outlined that once a court has received an application for divorce from one half of a couple, it will send out an acknowledgment of service to the other party. Once this is returned, the person who started the proceedings then applies for directions for trial, which is when the court can set a date for a Decree Nisi to be pronounced.
He added: “This stage allows the petitioner – the person applying for the divorce – to apply for Decree Absolute six weeks and one day after the pronouncement of Decree Nisi. It is only upon the pronouncement of Decree Absolute that the marriage is finally terminated.
“Because of this, the suggestion that Ms Hurley’s marriage came to end in a 92-second hearing is a little wide of the mark. This doesn’t include the additional work required before matters proceed to this stage, such as preparing and filing the divorce papers, while it also doesn’t include the six weeks waiting time before the divorce can be finalised through a Decree Absolute.”
Nathaniel added that couples would need fairly exceptional circumstances to not go through this process.
“Whilst there can be cases where the courts are prepared to expedite the court process, these tend to quite rare,” he said.
“If you are going through a divorce or perhaps thinking about separation, you should be aware that, unless there is a very good reason, you will have to follow the usual court rules and your divorce will likely take a number of months as opposed to 92 seconds.”