There are a few notable divorce cases that appear to zoom from ‘intention to proceed’ to conclusion very quickly, indeed in a matter of weeks. 

For example, the Decree Nisi in the divorce of celebrity Nigella Lawson from her husband Charles Saatchi, which had been in the media spotlight, was pronounced on 31st July 2013.  The incident which appears to have given rise to Ms Lawson’s intention to proceed occurred in mid-June.

A statement issued on behalf both parties and reported by the press referred to the divorce being “on the undefended basis” and that “neither party will be making any financial claims against the other”.  In theory, therefore, Ms Lawson is able to apply for the Decree Absolute to finally dissolve the marriage after 6 weeks and 1 day from the pronouncement of the Decree Nisi.

In many cases, the timing of the divorce process will be longer than that of Ms Lawson and Mr Saatchi and will be determined by a wide range of factors.  Some of these factors will be caused or required by the party who is seeking the divorce, some will be caused by the party who is responding and some will be upon the joint decision of the parties.

Having a valid and enforceable pre-nuptial agreement or a deed of separation may assist towards enabling matters to proceed within a very quick time-scale.  In limited cases, the court can be invited to expedite the pronouncement of the final decree.  Routinely, the time-scale will be affected by how crowded the court’s calendar is, as well as by how co-operative both parties are.

Also, the extent and type of assets which need to be resolved and distributed may determine how quickly the divorce can be completed.  In many cases, it may be considered appropriate for an application for the Decree Absolute (which finally dissolves the marriage) to be delayed pending a full and final settlement of the ancillary practical and financial matters.

Preserving the legal status of the marriage, while such steps are taken, will preserve and thereby avoid prejudicing the parties’ financial position.  Benefits under insurance and pension policies are most significantly relevant to this consideration.  Sometimes mediation on one or more issues can expedite a case, or may lead to a period of reflection or separation during which the parties agree that proceedings should be held.

If you would like further information and advice, please contact our Family and Divorce team at: