Nigella and Charles Saatchi granted decree nisi

Nigella Lawson and millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi have moved a step closer to ending their marriage.

In a hearing at London’s High Court which lasted less than a minute, District Judge Anne Aitken granted the couple a decree nisi – the first legal step to ending their 10-year marriage.

Saatchi, 70, and TV chef Nigella, 53, now have to wait for a decree absolute, which is usually issued six weeks and a day later, ending their marriage.

The pair separated in the aftermath of a photograph being published in which Saatchi was seen holding his wife by her throat, and he agreed to accept a police caution for assault as a result.

Neither the couple nor their legal representatives attended the hearing.

In Court 9 of the High Court’s building at First Avenue House, 13 reporters listened along with the district judge as an assistant read out Nigella and Saatchi’s names together with those of 14 other divorcing couples.

The judge asked: “Does any party or person wish to show cause against decrees being made or in the question of costs?”

A decree nisi is a statement saying the court sees no reason why a divorce cannot be granted. It is thought the divorce will be rubber-stamped some time in September.

Pictures were published last month showing Saatchi holding his wife by the throat as they had an argument on the terrace of a restaurant.

He dismissed the incident as nothing more than ”a playful tiff’ but then accepted a police caution for assault. He said he had done so to stop the incident ”hanging over” them.

Lawson, who has subsequently been pictured without her wedding ring, has described him as ‘the exploder” in the past due to his temper.

Saatchi later told the Mail on Sunday that the pictures gave a ‘wholly different and incorrect implication’.

But he also told the newspaper: “I feel that I have clearly been a disappointment to Nigella during the last year or so, and I am disappointed that she was advised to make no public comment to explain that I abhor violence of any kind against women, and have never abused her physically in any way.”

The couple confirmed they would not make any financial claims against the other, ruling out prolonged legal arguments.