How to start a divorce in England and Wales

Updated as of 25th April 2018: When a marriage goes sour it’s important to know when to call it a day.

A new life on your own can be daunting but it’s better than living out a failed relationship day-to-day.

How to start your divorce

Solicitors make a lot of money from divorce cases, as most people in the UK don’t know how to start a divorce.

This article outlines how you can initiate divorce proceedings.

In the UK there are 4 steps or stages you need to take in order to obtain a divorce. We’ve outlined the divorce process you need to follow below.

4 steps to filing and completing a divorce;

  • Find valid grounds for divorce to use.
  • File a D8 divorce petition form with the courts.
  • Apply for a decree nisi.
  • Apply for a decree absolute.

In order to be able to file for divorce, you must meet the demands of the court, which you can see an overview of below;

  • You must have been married for at least twelve months.
  • You have a valid ground for divorce.
  • Your ex-partner is likely to agree to the divorce.
  • You must see England or Wales as your permanent home, or be domiciled in England or Wales if you live abroad.

Call us on 01793 384 029 or email us today for free information on starting a divorce.

More information on how to start your divorce

File the divorce petition – This is a sort of application for court permission to divorce, and reasons must be provided as to how the relationship has broken down and why you want it to be over.

Apply for a decree nisi – If your partner concurs with the divorce petition then you will receive a decree nisi, which confirms that there’s no good reason why you can’t divorce. “nisi” is Latin and means “unless”.

Apply for a decree absolute – You have to wait six weeks after the decree nisi is received before you can apply for a decree absolute, which legally ends the marriage.

Do-it-yourself divorce

It’s becoming increasingly common for couples to arrange their own divorces without the assistance of costly solicitors.

This can be achieved if the couple can reach agreement on a number of issues, including the reason for the divorce, how childcare will be distributed, and how money, property and possessions will be divided.

If partners can agree on these key matters then a court hearing won’t be necessary and a DIY Divorce is a very quick, easy and affordable way to resolve your divorce.

DIY Divorce Service for £59 – Used by over 40,000 Couples.

Grounds for Divorce in the UK

In order to apply for a divorce you need to explain why it should be ended. There are four accepted grounds for divorce in the UK:


If your husband or wife has had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex, this is considered justified grounds for divorce, as long as you divorce within 6 months of discovering the infidelity.

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour could include physical violence, bullying or verbal abuse, drink or drug abuse, financial disagreements or unfaithfulness.

If you can’t put up with it any longer, these are reasonable grounds for divorce.

For more information about unreasonable behaviour click here


If your partners leaves you this is considered a legitimate ground for divorce.

This could be if they leave without your approval, without a reason or to end the relationship.

You need to be separated for at least two of the last two and a half years, and you must both agree to the divorce in writing.

If you have been living separately for more than five years then you will usually be granted a divorce, even if both parties don’t agree on it.

Call us on 01793 384 029 for free advice on choosing the right grounds for divorce or simply email us today.

Filing a divorce petition

When you file a divorce petition form, you must include you and your spouse’s full name and address, a copy of the marriage certificate as well as the names and dates of birth of any children, even if they are grown up.

If your partner has been unfaithful and the person who they have been unfaithful with is named in the document they will receive copies of the paperwork once filed.

When you submit the divorce petition there will be a £550 court fee to start a divorce, although you may be able to get state help with this if you’re on certain benefits or a low-income.

Divorce-Online can deal with your divorce for just £189 fixed fee.

Divorce in less than 20 weeks and save over £1,000 on your divorce when choosing our Managed Divorce Service.

Alternatively, you can call our team of divorce advisers on 01793 384 029 or if you’d rather receive information via email, you can send us an email.

Download our Free Guide To Getting a Divorce Online
Learn how to get a divorce without needing to instruct a solicitor by downloading our detailed guide.

Our guide will help make you feel confident about filing for divorce.

Guide to divorce

This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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