Realising that your relationship has reached its conclusion can be an emotional and overwhelming time. Divorce proceedings aren’t something most people know much about before they require one. Our family solicitors encounter common questions from would-be clients on a regular basis and have compiled a list of answers to them here so that you can better understand what is involved in a divorce.

When can you get a divorce?

In order to be eligible for divorce, you must have been married for at least one year, your marriage must be legally recognised in the UK and the UK must be your permanent home (or that of your spouse).

How quickly can I get a divorce?

The average time for a divorce to be finalised in the UK is around 4-6 months.

What are the grounds for divorce?

Prior to 6 April 2022, in order to obtain a divorce you had to prove the marriage had irretrievably broken down. To establish irretrievable breakdown, you have to rely on one of five facts, these were:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour – which could cover a wide range of behaviours, from domestic abuse to lack of financial participation in household bills, to unfaithfulness.
  • Desertion
  • Living apart for 2+ years (with spouse’s consent)
  • Living apart for 5+ years (no consent from spouse required)

Following many years of campaigning, the law changed and from 6 April 2022 we have had ‘no fault divorce’.

The Application (previously known as the Petition) must include a statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and the court will now take this at face value and no further evidence of fact is required.

How do I start divorce proceedings?

The new rules allow one person to apply for a divorce (as before) or it allows the couple to apply for a divorce together. This allows a couple to work together if they wish to.

The divorce process itself is started by completing an online Application for divorce.

The new rules simplify things greatly but at times divorce can be a lengthy and complex process. It differs from couple to couple. We therefore recommend that you consult with an experienced family solicitor before proceeding.

What happens if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?

Previously, a spouse could have defended a divorce petition. The new rules remove this an option for parties now.

If your spouse does not want to get divorced and you have issued the Application on your own, your spouse could refuse to acknowledge receipt of the Application. This would not prevent the divorce from proceeding but it would mean that you have to apply to the Court for deemed service. This is a hurdle that would need to be overcome but it is not uncommon and it is something we regularly assist our clients with.

If your spouse is uncooperative, then you should consult with an experienced divorce solicitor to help you decide your next steps.

Who gets what in a divorce?

It is ultimately up to you and your partner to reach a settlement regarding child arrangements (previously referred to as custody), assets, property and finances. The court only becomes involved if one party specifically requests that they do, by issuing an application.

Mediation is a popular (and frequently required) route that you can take in order to reach an amicable and fair financial settlement. If there are any aspects you cannot agree on through mediation, then you can ask a Court to make the final decision.

Pre-nuptial agreements are not legally binding in England and Wales but judges will take them into account when making their decision providing certain criteria are met.

Can I stop divorce proceedings?

Yes, you can decide to stop divorce proceedings at any time up until the grant of the decree absolute. If the decree absolute has already been granted, then you are free to re-marry your spouse if you so choose. Many people choose to delay applying for the decree absolute until a financial settlement is decided.

Can we legally separate without a divorce?

Yes. If you wish to separate without filing for divorce, then you can apply for a separation petition. Like a divorce, this is granted by the court, but it allows you to live apart without ending your marriage. This is useful for those who object to divorce on religious or moral grounds or have been married for less than a year.

How much does a divorce cost?

The court fee to apply for a divorce in the UK is £593. This is payable at the time the petition is issued. This is separate from any additional solicitor fees.


To find out more about our rates or to book your free 30-minute consultation contact our divorce solicitors on 0800 2800 421.

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