The Divorce Process in Northern Ireland

The Divorce Process in Northern Ireland

Sadly, however well-meant our vows were when we said them to our partners, they may not always last forever. While divorces are at their lowest levels for a decade, some marriages still fail. This could be for a variety of reasons. Sometimes a split can be brutal with one party having committed adultery or having been abusive. Other times, couples can simply drift apart and realise that they no longer want to be together and that they would be happier on their own. 

Starting divorce proceedings can knock your confidence, make you feel like a failure and sap your self-esteem. However, by trying to remain as amicable as possible, and by looking to the future, a divorce can be a positive step to getting your life back on track.


Either you or your partner will send a petition to the court through a solicitor. It’s good practice to show your partner the petition if you are the one initiating proceedings. This helps to keep things civil and on good terms. The court will then issue the divorce papers after a few weeks. There are five grounds for divorce in Northern Ireland:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable Behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. Living Apart For Over Two Years
  5. Living Apart For Over Five Years


The other party will receive divorce papers and will be required to send back a form entitled the ‘Acknowledgement of Service.’ They will have seven days to do this. If they choose not to, it is the petitioner’s responsibility to prove that the other party received the petition notification.

Decree Nisi

A judge will consider the petition and decide whether or not to grant a divorce. It’s vital that the petitioner has evidence for the ground on which they are seeking a divorce. It is not good enough to simply state that adultery occurred. The other party may deny this, and divorce proceedings can become messy and drawn out. Gather evidence early and seek advice from a solicitor if you are the petitioner. When satisfied, a judge will issue a decree nisi. A certificate will be issued detailing the time and place where the decree nisi was issued. Solicitors for the petitioner will receive an order from the court detailing this. At this point, you are still technically married.

Decree Absolute

After six weeks and one day from the issue of the decree nisi, a decree absolute can be applied for by the petitioner. If the petitioner chooses not to apply for whatever reason, the respondent can after a further three months. Once formally granted, this finalises the divorce proceedings and both parties are legally divorced. 

The whole process should take around five months. However, this is very much dependant on both parties filling in forms in a timely matter and not blocking any part of the process. While a difficult time in your life, your solicitor will be a huge support in taking the pressure off you to ensure that your divorce proceedings move as swiftly as possible without unnecessary holdups.

At H McPartland & Sons, we have a team of family law experts who deal with divorce within Northern Ireland. Contact us today and talk to one of our family law experts, who will ensure your divorce is handled both professionally and sensitively.