THE ROYAL DIVORCE: Final step could be quickly arranged

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The Independent Online
A royal divorce could be arranged within a matter of weeks, assuming the financial and other arrangements have been agreed between the Prince and Princess.

They could apply for a "special procedure" divorce on the grounds that they had been separated for more than two years. The special procedure requires the consent of both parties but if that is forthcoming - which is likely - then the whole process is routine and does not require any court appearances. Normally, a district judge sitting in a county court or, in central London, a district judge sitting in the principal registry of the Family Division of the High Court, has discretion to speed up the divorce process in special circumstances.

"The circumstances are not specified, but they would include the effect of publicity on any children," said Nigel Shepherd, chairman of the Solicitors' Family Law Association. "The decree nisi can be granted very quickly, but there is normally a six-week wait for the decree absolute. If a judge thought that delay would put children in an unwelcome spotlight, he could waive that period.

"It is unlikely, but if you had people working flat out and the goodwill of the court, you could theoretically finish the process in a week.

The welfare of Princes William, 13, and Harry, 11, is considered to have been in the forefront of the Queen's mind when she intervened in their parents' affairs. She is said to have been concerned about the effect that the protracted "PR war" between the couple, and the lack of concrete decisions about their marital status, was having on the two boys.

The Princess is now likely to seek, and be granted, unlimited access to her two sons. At present the couple have equal access to their children.

But one of the factors that may have concentrated royal minds on a quick divorce is the impending introduction of the Family Law Bill - which would have required the Prince or Princess to attend an "information" session with a group of complete strangers.

Under the Bill, which is expected to become law next year, they would have to wait a minimum of 13 months and attend the compulsory session.

"We have been opposed to the idea of this group session since it was first mooted and, ironically, we used to cite the ludicrous possibility of the royals having to do it," Mr Shepherd said. "They could have to sit down with their local plumber and builder, whoever was getting divorced at the time."

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