With several high-profile celebrities having separated this year, the media is full of stories of how they receive special treatment from the court due to their status.

The divorce process is the same whether you are Cheryl (of Girls Aloud and X-Factor fame - nee Tweedy and previously Cole and Fernandez-Versini) or Cheryl Jones.

Unfortunately the media view of divorce gives separating people an unrealistic expectation of how long divorce procedure takes. All cases are fact specific and it may be easier for some to reach an agreement with their ex-partner than others, whether they are wealthy and famous or not.

The big mistake that the media report is that divorces end on decree nisi. It doesn’t! A marriage is only considered to be dissolved by the court when decree absolute is pronounced. Decree nisi is only the stage that the court says a divorce may be granted. There is a further waiting period before the court will pronounce decree absolute, which is a minimum of six weeks and one day after decree nisi.

In reality, this is usually much longer. The Family Court’s authority to deal with finances comes into force on decree nisi and the matrimonial finances need to be settled before decree absolute can be applied for. While the divorce procedure itself is quite straightforward, it is the negotiation and agreement of the matrimonial finances that takes the time.

The centralisation of the Family Court system has only caused further delays to the divorce procedure. Regional divorce centres have been set up around the country, taking the responsibility of processing divorces out of the hands of the local courts. For example, all the divorce petitions from London and the South East are sent to the Bury St Edmunds Divorce Centre. As a result, it currently takes approximately four weeks for a divorce petition to be issued and five weeks for an application for decree nisi to be processed. Then there is the waiting time for decree nisi to be pronounced. This is without any other delays or any complicated issues the Family Court has to consider. Family solicitors usually take these timescales as a guideline as often it can take much longer.

Instructing a solicitor means that not only are you receiving divorce advice, but a realistic timescale which you can work from. It can be frustrating when it seems that the divorce process will never end but an experienced matrimonial solicitor is aware of what delays may come up and will keep you updated each step of the way. They can also advise you on what can realistically be done in the meantime.

At Birketts, our experienced team are all Resolution members and will be able to advise you at each step of the divorce process. Each of our four offices has a collaborative solicitor so we can advise on a range of options which would be suitable for our clients. We also offer family mediation services in our Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich offices.