How Long Do You Have To Be Separated Before Getting Divorced?
Before April 2022 married couples who decided to get divorced would sometimes need to wait a certain amount of time before they could start the divorce application process.
The length of waiting time depended primarily on whether the divorce was to be contested by one spouse or whether both partners agreed to the divorce. Furthermore, the reason given for getting divorced on the application form could also affect the waiting time.
However, all of that has now changed with the introduction of No-fault Divorce – the first change for 50 years to the divorce law in England and Wales!
No-Fault Divorce Is Now Divorce Law – The divorce law in England and Wales has changed to give way for a no-fault divorce. This means you no longer need to wait for a period of 2 years of separation or blame one party for the breakdown of your marriage. What’s more, it is no longer possible for your spouse to contest the divorce, allowing the divorce to proceed without friction or additional costs.
What are the grounds for divorce and waiting times?
The removal of adultery, unreasonable behaviour and separation length-based grounds for divorce are a welcome change to modernise the divorce law in the government’s Divorce, Dissolution & Separation Act 2020.
The new divorce act dispenses with reasons, or ‘facts’ as grounds for divorce, replacing them with a single ‘Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown’ which can be filed by either party, or both. In effect, this provides a far simpler route for mutual divorce, while also removing the ability for one spouse to contest the divorce.
- Firstly, to get a divorce in England or Wales under the new no-fault divorce rules you must have been married for at least 12 months (this requirement has not changed)
- Then, to make a no-fault divorce application you must complete a statement on the divorce petition declaring that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The person making the application then has 28 days to serve their spouse with the divorce papers (the default method of notification will be via email)
- The court must take the Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown to be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and will in turn, make a Conditional Order (previously called Decree Nisi) after a minimum of 20 weeks ‘cooling-off period’ – and when the applicant or applicants have confirmed they still wish to proceed
- After a further 6 weeks the Final Order (previously called Decree Absolute) will be made by the court
It is recommended that the mandatory 20 weeks reflection period is used to discuss and agree arrangements like a financial settlement if the split is inevitable.
It should be noted that the rules above apply only to England and Wales. In Scotland it is possible to get a divorce by mutual agreement after being separated for just one year.
Scotland has its own judicial system and its own jurisdiction so it’s important to be aware of the differences if you plan to file for divorce. See: Is Divorce Law the Same in Scotland & England to learn more.
How long do you have to be separated before divorce is automatic?
There is no such thing in the UK as ‘automatic divorce’ due to a period of separation. Even if a married couple have been living apart for several years, or even decades, they will still be legally married.
In order to get divorced, one or both of the parties will need to go through the formal process and file for divorce.
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