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The tale of the quickie divorce

Billie Piper and Lawrence Fox have had a ‘quickie divorce’ – in only 50 seconds they have gone from being married to being divorced, or so the papers say. On days like today I expect my telephone to ring – both with existing clients wanting to know why they cannot have a ‘Quickie Divorce’ and new enquiries from potential clients who would also like a speedy divorce like the celebrities that they have read about. However, the truth is that the factual reporting of the divorce procedure is often inaccurate. What the papers refer to as a ‘Quickie Divorce’ is actually something that the majority of divorcing couples benefit from and they are focusing on the timing on one very short aspect of the procedure.

When parties divorce, if the divorce is undefended (meaning that the Respondent does not ask the court to find that the marriage has not broken down irretrievably), neither party will need to attend court and the hearing for the decree nisi (the stage when the court confirms the Petitioner has proved that the marriage has broken down in open court) will usually only be a matter of seconds. By the time that the court hearing takes place, a Judge will already have considered the petition and the decided whether the marriage should be dissolved.

The main factor that slows down divorce relates to how cooperative the parties are in the initial stages of the divorce when the petition is being prepared and agreed and whether the Respondent completes the acknowledgment of service. There are also periods when the papers will be with the court waiting for a Judge to consider the petition and the speed of this will depend on how quickly the Judge can consider the matter.

Finally, the 50 second hearing is not the end of the divorce, after the decree nisi has been pronounced the parties will remain married until an application has been made for the decree nisi to be made absolute and this cannot ordinarily take place before the 6-week cooling off period has expired.

If you are affected by any of the issues discussed in this article please contact Stephen Talbot at

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.