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It’s been noticeable, both in my own work and in that of legal friends, that more and more people are either doing divorces themselves or seeking small amounts of advice and not formally instructing solicitors. Unless the Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution is very simple I consider this unwise ~ because doing it yourself may save some money on costs, but without appropriate advice people can lose money on financial settlements. Furthermore, not understanding the importance of having either a Consent Order or a Final Order from the Court (following formal Ancillary Relief proceedings) setting out the parties’ financial affairs can seriously affect one or both parties further down the line as parties can still make a claim on the other’s property until this is done.

This post, however, deals with the pitfalls of getting a divorce in the fist place…

These are the most common problems I have found:

I’ve lost my Marriage Certificate.

Copies can be obtained from the Registry Office in the District where you got married. If you got married abroad you will need to contact the Registering Body in that particular country.

I’ve lost my Decree Absolute

If your previous marriage was dissolved you will have to show your Decree Absolute.

If you know where the Divorce took place this can be done through this Court. If you have a reference number some may provide you with a copy for their standard photocopy fee – currently £5 – and may require an administrative fee to locate the file – but it is usual for a search to have to take place. This is done by filling in a form stating the names of both parties, where the marriage took place and the rough date of the Divorce.  The current fee is £40.

If you do not know where the Divorce took place you need to do a search of the Principle Register of the Family Division, which is on High Holborn (This is also the building where you apply for records of Probate and Wills for most of London. You can do this manually too, and if you’re a history geek like me it’s incredible.)

The procedure is the same but the current fee is £60.

This is the required form:


I have no idea where my spouse is…

A Court will not start Proceedings without an address for the service of documents on the Respondent. In this case you need to fill in a long form explaining that you have no idea where they are, and evidence of the searches you have done. If the Respondent was last seen more than 2 years ago you have to do a Search of the Register (as above) to check whether or not the Respondent has already divorced you!

If the Court is satisfied that the whereabouts of the Respondent is they will Issue Proceedings and dispense with the need for service of the documents on the Respondent. Obviously this situation is not ideal as financial issues can not be sorted out between the parties, but does, at least, allow parties to divorce if their spouse has disappeared, and it is advisable to seek legal advise as to how this can be resolved.


I think my spouse is dead

In this circumstance you fill in a form which acts as both an Application to Dispense with Service and also a Divorce Petition. However, if this is the case it is highly advisable to seek legal advice.


My Spouse will not sign the Acknowledgement of Service

In some situations a Respondent will not return the Acknowledgement of Service, the document required to be returned by the Court to say that they will allow the Divorce to go ahead.

In this situation, an Application needs to be made to the Court for bailiffs to personally serve the Documents on the Respondent. Once this is done the documents are deemed to be served.

Alternatively, an Application for the Petition to be “Deemed to be Served” can be made in accordance with the Family Procedure Rules. In order to get this correct legal advice is highly advisable.


(As always, this is base information only and should not be taken as set in stone for every case. If you are uncertain please seek legal advice and I will not be held liable for any losses in the event that this information does not apply to any specific case)