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How quick is a quickie?

On 10th September it was announced via the media that David Walliams and Lara Stone are getting divorced and that they have joined the realms of celebrity divorcing couples in having a “quickie divorce” that, it seems, the rest of the public are not permitted to have.

So how and when can you get a “quickie divorce” and why is it the preserve of the rich and/or famous? The answer: it isn’t! The term has grown up in the media to describe the moment when the Court pronounces ‘Decree Nisi’. This is when the Court gives its formal approval of the divorce and is a pivotal part of the divorce process but by no means the end of it.

The Decree Nisi is pronounced by a Judge who reads out the names from a list of cases all being dealt with together. It is in “open court” which means it is open to the public to attend – hence the media can attend if they wish which they do on such occasions.

The couples themselves rarely, if ever, attend and will only do so if there is a dispute over the legal costs that one is being asked to pay the other.

So while the actual pronouncement of Decree Nisi may take a matter of seconds, it is by no means the full extent of the divorce procedure. Often there have been many months leading up to the date of pronouncement – in the case of David and Lara the Decree Nisi does not mean they are now divorced – it simply means the Court has approved their divorce and David can apply to make it final and absolute in a minimum of 6 weeks and one day later. However, frequently the Decree Absolute does not then get pronounced for many months, sometimes more than a year later, if there are issues surrounding the couple’s finances still to be resolved.

Furthermore, this is when the divorce is undefended, i.e. it is accepted by both parties that it should proceed. In the rare cases where the divorce is being defended by the other party, the process will last even longer.

Therefore, the term “quickie divorce” is very misleading because when it comes to divorce there is a rigid procedure to follow with an enforced built-in waiting period of 6 weeks. It is a simple and straightforward procedure if you get it right but very difficult and time consuming if you do not, and celebrities are required to follow the same rules and regulations as the rest of us mere mortals – you just hear about them more frequently!

If you are affected by an issues discussed in this article or would like to speak to someone about receiving advice please call us on 020 7246 0400.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.