The ‘quickie divorce’ is a phrase and process allegedly reserved exclusively for celebrities and the ultra-wealthy. It is supposedly a way of fast-tracking the process of divorce that has been used in relation to celebrity couples, in some cases the media reporting that a a divorce has been granted in a mere 14 seconds.
A ‘quickie divorce’ is in fact not attainable for anyone - including celebrities and the ultra-wealthy. The reported duration of 14 seconds actually indicates the time that it has taken the judge involved in the case to pronounce the Decree Nisi – an event where neither party is required to be present. This order does not constitute an official end to the marriage but confirms the parties’ entitlement to divorce.
The Decree Absolute (the order to end the marriage) must be applied for after the Decree Nisi has been ordered. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the Decree Absolute cannot be applied for until six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi.
The length of the divorce process varies significantly from case to case. A divorce can typically take between six to nine months but this is entirely dependent on the parties’ circumstances and any court delays. The Decree Absolute does not necessarily mean that financial and children matters in the divorce have been resolved as these proceedings run separately.
So how does divorce work?
The divorce process in England and Wales commences when one of the parties has filed for divorce. At this stage, an application to the court is made by one party, referred to as a divorce petition.
In England and Wales there is only one ground for divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of marriage - and, on the petition, the applicant must outline the reasons why their marriage has deteriorated to this point. The other party (the "respondent") will then be informed of the divorce petition and should respond using an acknowledgement of service form. As is already evident, this process alone takes far longer than 14 seconds.
To file for divorce, jurisdiction must first be established. The rules in relation to this can be complex and someone can be entitled to divorce in more than one country. As a rough guide, whether you can divorce in England is governed by European law and is allowed if various conditions are met. If the spouses disagree over which country has jurisdiction over the divorce, matters can be dragged out over months or even years.
The next step is the application for Decree Nisi and receiving the order from the judge. This part of the divorce process can be relatively quick. However, at this point, the parties are still legally married. It is not until the Decree Absolute has been ordered that the marriage legally comes to an end. The timings for this vary depending on whether there are complex finances or child arrangements to discuss.
The process described above is merely a skeleton of what is required to obtain a divorce.
In many cases, there is disagreement between the parties and complicated finances to consider which can add numerous other steps to the divorce process causing the length of time it takes to increase, sometimes quite significantly. Financial proceedings alone take 6 to 18 months but this too can increase if there are companies or trusts, or if any financial forensics are required owing to potential non-disclosure.
There is a financial settlement procedure for couples who use the courts for this process. At any point throughout the process, the parties can choose to settle if they reach an agreement. This would result in the proceedings being shortened. Not all cases will necessarily involve going to court as other methods such as family mediation can also be used.
The above is a basic outline of a divorce and the process for the financial settlement procedure; and shows there is no such thing as a ‘quickie divorce’.
The length of a divorce can vary significantly from case to case but it is certainly not possible, as the media like to claim, that a divorce can be finalised by celebrities in a matter of minutes, or even seconds.
Aisling O’Reilly, from Vardags
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.
Published on 24th November 2017
(Last updated 21st March 2018)