How to start a divorce in England and Wales

by Monday, March 4, 2013

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 is better than living out a failed relationship day-to-day.

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 you can get a divorce once you have been married for at least twelve months, if the relationship has “irretrievably broken down”. The marriage must be legally recognised in the UK and you must have a permanent UK address.

File the 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.

Grounds for Divorce in the UK

In order to apply for a divorce you need to explain why it should be ended. There are three 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.

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.

If you have children under the age of 18 then you will need to include details about arrangements for their care after the divorce, including childcare, maintenance and contact. In order to get a quick divorce make sure you discuss looking after the children post-divorce.

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

Divorce-Online can deal with your divorce and a clean break order for just £299 + court fees, click here for more information or call 01793 211 211

Mark Keenan

About Mark Keenan

Editor of the Divorce Online blog

No Comments Yet.

What do you think?