A number of news sources, including the BBC, are today reporting that Ant McPartlin and his estranged wife Lisa Armstrong, who have been together for more than 20 years, have been granted a divorce in under 30 seconds. Celebrity divorces constantly make the front pages of our newspapers, where it is often reported that they have been granted a divorce in record time. Back in December 2017 Jamie Redknapp apparently got divorced in just 20 seconds, but was pipped to the post by Cheryl, who holds the current record at just 14 seconds!
Is this record time possible for everyone, or is it just the preserve of the rich and famous? The answer: it is not possible for anyone. The reality is the same for all that seek to get divorced. An uncontested divorce commonly takes between 4 and 6 months to complete.
What Ant McPartlin and Lisa Armstrong were granted in 30 seconds was a decree nisi and not a divorce. A decree nisi is pronounced when the court is satisfied that the party that has applied for the divorce has met the legal and procedural requirements necessary.
When a decree nisi is pronounced the couple are not divorced and they still remain married. The person seeking the divorce must wait a minimum of 6 weeks and 1 day from the day the decree nisi is pronounced before applying for a decree absolute. When, and only when, the decree absolute is granted are the couple divorced.
The pronouncement of decree nisi is usually a matter of formal procedure. Neither party is required to attend court for the pronouncement, unless they wish to contest what has been ordered regarding who pays the costs of the divorce. The formality of the judge reading out the decree only takes a matter of seconds to complete. The speed at which it is read out is completely meaningless and only serves to create salacious and sensationalist headlines for the waiting press.
What the many reports of Ant McPartlin’s ‘divorce’ fail to mention is the many hours, days and weeks of preparatory work done by their legal representatives in order to reach the stage of applying for the decree nisi. Commonly it can take around 3 months to reach this stage. These reports also fail to recognise the work that may have been done in relation to how the money and other assets of the marriage may be divided and, for other couples, the arrangements for the children.
Whether you are an ‘A-list’ celebrity or an ordinary member of the public, the requirements and timeframes of divorce apply to all equally. There is no such thing as a ’30 second divorce’ and more caution should be taken by the writers of these sensationalist reports. They create unrealistic expectations for those who wish to separate and also tend to portray a marriage as something that can be easily, and quickly, disposed of when the reality is that it cannot. Divorce is not a decision that anyone enters into lightly and a careful consideration of all available options is required, including counselling, mediation and the impact of the decision on the family as a whole.
In every situation, what is needed is good and specialist legal advice from a family solicitor; who can advise on all the available options allowing time for a party to make a careful and considered decision.