Divorce – The Reality

29 Oct 2018

Tabloid headlines recently declared that TV personality Ant McPartlin’s infidelity was so intolerable that his wife could not continue to live with him and their marriage was dissolved in a matter of minutes.

Family lawyers around the Country no doubt sighed in exasperation at yet another example of media sensationalism of the divorce process involving a celebrity.

In England and Wales it is only possible for a divorce to be obtained if the marriage has irretrievably broken down and currently this can only be proved by citing one of five available facts. Three of those facts relate to separation or desertion for periods in excess of two years. For those who have not been separated for the requisite period of time, the only facts on which the applicant can rely are either that that the other spouse has committed adultery and the applicant finds it intolerable to live with the respondent, or that the other spouse has behaved in such a way that the applicant cannot reasonably continue to live with the respondent.

Clearly in Ant McPartlin’s case, his wife chose to file her application for a divorce on the fact that he had committed adultery with another woman and, as required by law, that she found it intolerable to continue to live with him. In order for her application to proceed, Mr McPartlin would have been required to admit the alleged adultery and having done so, his wife would then able to apply to the Court for the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi dissolution.

Since 1977, all applications for divorce have been dealt with under a procedure whereby, in the absence of either the husband or wife, a Judge will consider whether the applicant has sufficiently proved that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If satisfied that is the case, a certificate of entitlement is issued and a date listed when the Decree Nisi will be pronounced in open Court. Neither the husband or wife are required to attend Court for this pronouncement and it is likely that the District Judge will issue a Decree Nisi in a number of divorces at the same time. It is not surprising therefore, that this process took no more than a matter of minutes in Ant McPartlin’s case.

However, the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi does not bring an end to the marriage. Save in exceptional circumstances, it will not be possible for the marriage to be dissolved until at least 43 days after the Decree Nisi. This delay provides an opportunity for either the husband or wife, or indeed anyone who wishes to intervene, to object to the marriage being dissolved. If no objection is received, then the applicant can apply to the Court for the Decree Nisi to be made Absolute after that period of time has elapsed. If the applicant fails to do so, then the respondent may make the application, but only after another 3 months have elapsed and having provided the applicant with notice of their intention to do so.

Unless an agreement has been reached between Ant McPartlin and his wife as to the terms of an overall financial settlement, it is unlikely that she will apply for the marriage to be brought to an end just yet.

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