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The Myth of the Quickie Divorce

Last Tuesday, Myleene Klass and her husband Graham Quinn received a so-called 'quickie divorce'. In a matter of just 100 seconds a judged ruled that their marriage of six months had indeed 'broken down irretrievably' and granted a decree nisi.

Unfortunately for Myleene, Tuesday did not signify the end of her divorce proceedings. In fact, the 'quickie divorce', much loved by the popular press, is anything but.

In order to proceed with a divorce in England and Wales the party seeking a divorce (the Petitioner) must prove that his or her marriage has 'broken down irretrievably'. In order to do so one of five facts have been proven: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years' desertion, two years' separation with consent or five years' separation. Myleene chose to rely on the ground most commonly used, her husband's 'unreasonable behaviour'. In order to succeed she will have had to cite examples to the Court of Graham's behaviour. This process would have begun many months earlier, starting with discussions with her divorce lawyers.

Once the Petition has been drafted and lodged, the Court will take, on average, five working days to acknowledge and process it. The Petition is then served on the other spouse, known as the Respondent, who then has seven days to complete a form confirming whether he agrees that the divorce should go ahead, or objects and wishes to defend the Petition. The majority of divorces in this country are undefended.

The Petitioner can then apply for the first stage in the divorce process, known as the 'decree nisi'. Depending on the efficiency of the court, the decree nisi usually takes between one and two months to be pronounced after the application has been lodged. There is typically no need to attend court of the day of the pronouncement - the judge will simply read it aloud along with a number of other cases also listed on that day. This can indeed take just a few seconds and perhaps this is where the myth of the 'quickie divorce' arises.

Myleene will now have to wait for a further six weeks and one day before she can apply for decree absolute, the final stage in the divorce process. Again, there is no need for either of them to attend to hear the judge pronounce their decree absolute; they will simply be issued with a certificate in due course. Once the decree absolute has been pronounced they are legally divorced.

It is important also to note that the divorce process is separate from the division of finances between a divorcing couple. In the majority of cases the divorce process itself will be a very simple process and will not involve much negotiation. The more time consuming aspect, and consequently the more costly in terms of solicitors' fees, is the division of finances and the resolution of any matters relating to children. This can take many months to resolve.

Whilst an uncontested divorce can indeed by quick, the idea of a 'quickie divorce' achieved in just seconds is unfortunately a popular media myth.

This article by Harriet Errington first appeared in Spear's Wealth Management on 29 April 2013.

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