Section of divorce petition of Lady Rodney (Catalogue reference: J 77/738)

This is a brief guide to help you with your research. Divorce records are incomplete and are kept in a variety of archives. This guide will help you to find out if the information you are looking for exists, and if it does where to find it.

Did you know?

The survival rate of divorce case files is:

  • 1858-1927:  almost 100%
  • 1928-1937:  80%
  • After 1937 :  less than 0.2%

Before 1858, a full divorce required a private act of Parliament so the opportunity was only available to a few people.

Divorce case files can contain petitions, certificates, and copies of the decrees nisi and absolutedecree nisi - a document giving grounds for divorce and stating when the petitioner can apply for a decree absolute; decree absolute - a document finalising a divorce.

Decrees absolutedecree absolute - a document finalising a divorce give the names of the petitionerthe husband or wife who starts legal action in a divorce, respondentthe spouse who is being divorced and (if applicable) co-respondenta person accused of adultery with the spouse of the petitioner and the date and place of the marriage.

The Supreme Court and some county courts grant divorces in England and Wales.

Until 1971 divorce by mutual consent was not allowed.