According to today’s news, Nigella and her art collector husband are going through a “quickie divorce” with the hearing for the Decree Nisi lasting just 70 seconds just a few weeks after the proceedings started. To many people this news will seem incompatible with their own experience of divorce.

So how long does it take to get a divorce?

The term “quickie divorce” refers to the change in process brought about in the early 1970s when divorce law was overhauled. This change did away with the need in most cases for a formal court hearing and replaced it with the reading in open court of a list of names of people receiving a Decree Nisi that day.

Much depends on your other half. If they are agreeable to a divorce then the process is much more likely to run smoothly. The general stages of divorce are as follows:

  1. The Petitioner prepares and files the Divorce Petition with the Court. If at all possible the information in the petition should be agreed first with the Respondent spouse. 
  2. The Respondent signs and returns the Acknowledgement of Service form to confirm that they have received the divorce papers. At this stage they can inform the Court if they intend to defend the divorce but this is relatively rare. 
  3. The Petitioner applies for Decree Nisi. The Decree Nisi is usually pronounced without either of the parties being in Court. This is the stage Nigella has reached today. 
  4. Six weeks and 1 day later the Petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute.

This process can last several months; however with determination, cooperation and good liaison with the court the time-scale can be significantly reduced. This is what is likely to have happened in Nigella’s case.

A divorce may be delayed due to the couple wishing to resolve children or financial issues. If they have children then the parent petitioning for divorce must complete a separate document setting out the plans for the children. This is sent to the Court along with the Divorce Petition.

In relation to the finances, it is usually advisable to try and resolve financial matters before applying for the Decree Absolute. If there is a disagreement about the finances, then it may be necessary to make a further application to Court so that the Court can decide who gets what. This process can take many months unless an agreement can be reached. This is often a very good reason to consider using a non-court process such as collaborative law or mediation.

The couple’s emotional state and how long it is since they separated will affect the pace and nature of legally bringing a marriage to an end. Counselling support can be key, and can reduce the amount of lawyer time that you each need to pay for, to say nothing of the huge benefits to your children of having a less contentious divorce.

So when embarking on a divorce, it may not be possible to obtain the “quickie divorce” the press so often describes. But with the right support, advice and realistic expectations, the process of divorce can run smoothly.