How to File For Divorce in England & Wales
Many people ask our family law experts how to file for divorce in the UK – The good news fortunately is that the divorce procedure in England & Wales is fairly straightforward as it’s mainly a paperwork filing process.
This makes the filing of your divorce petition in England or Wales possible without you needing to instruct any divorce solicitors, provided you can answer YES to the following questions:
- Have you been married for a year or longer
- Do you permanently live in England or Wales or are you domiciled in England or Wales if you live abroad
- Is your marriage legally recognised in the UK (including same-sex marriage)
- Has your relationship permanently broken down
Please note: If you are in a Civil Partnership the process is different.
What does the divorce procedure look like?
To file divorce papers you’ll need to do the following:
- File a D8 Divorce Petition Form
- Pay court fees – A payment of £593 is required
- Decree Nisi – File a decree nisi application to the court
- Decree Absolute – Apply to the court to end your marriage
You need to provide the court with your husband or wife’s full name and address. Please note, you must try to find your husband or wife’s current address if you do not know it because the court will need to send them a copy of the divorce petition.
You also need to provide the original marriage certificate or a certified translated version if it’s not written in English.
Please note: If you have changed your name since you got married you will need to provide proof, for example, a legal deed poll document.
How to file for divorce step by step
To apply for divorce in order to end your marriage and obtain a decree absolute, you must complete each of the following five steps – starting with filing a divorce petition.
1. Find suitable grounds for divorce
To file for divorce you need to explain to the court why your marriage has irretrievably broken down, which is done by establishing one of the five available ‘facts’.
2. File a divorce petition form
The filing of the divorce petition form D8, means you are asking the court for permission to divorce. You disclose details on your marriage and the reasons for why you wish to end your marriage.
3. Acknowledgement of service
This is the third stage of the divorce procedure. It involves the court sending your spouse (the respondent) an acknowledgement of service form, which your spouse needs to respond to usually within 7 days.
Your husband or wife essentially tells the court that they are happy with the reasons stated for the divorce and that they will not defend the divorce.
4. Decree nisi stage
At this stage of proceedings the court will go through your divorce application and decide whether they are happy for it to proceed.
If the information in the divorce petition is correct and your spouse has responded to the court, they will grant you a decree nisi pronouncement date.
This date is an important step as you are then entitled to apply for the final decree (decree absolute), 6 weeks after this date.
5. Decree absolute
To obtain the final decree in divorce proceedings, you must apply to the court 6 weeks and 1 day after the date of your decree nisi pronouncement date.
The court will grant you a decree nisi, usually with 1-2 weeks of receiving your application, which will formally end your marriage.
Let’s take a look at each step in more detail.
1. Finding Grounds for Divorce
Grounds for divorce are sometimes referred to as ‘reasons for divorce’ or ‘facts’. There is only 1 ground for divorce, which is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage, but this must be proven by using one of the five available grounds.
A basic overview of the grounds for divorce in England & Wales;
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation, no consent required
Each ground has different requirements and processes to follow so it’s important you choose the most suitable one for your situation.
We’ve written about all five grounds for divorce in more detail to help you make a more informed decision, which could help you save time, stress and money!
2. File a Divorce Petition Form D8
When looking to file for divorce yourself, be aware that you have completed the correct form for your chosen ground for divorce as there a 5 different petition forms available.
Once you are happy that all the details on your divorce petition are accurate, you need to submit it to the court, which is typically done via post.
Visit the government website and enter your postcode to find your local divorce centre where you can post your divorce petition.
As we’ve mentioned above, you need to attach the court fee (usually via a cheque to HMCTS) and supply your marriage certificate.
3. Acknowledgement of Service
This is the second stage of divorce proceedings, which is where the respondent (the person being divorced) signs a form from the court to say that they are happy for it to continue.
The court will send your spouse a copy of the divorce petition along with an acknowledgment of service form.
This form needs to be signed and sent back to the court within 7 days of being in receipt of it.
We recommend speaking to your spouse if at all possible and explaining when you have filed the divorce so that they can keep an eye out for the acknowledgment of service form.
Any delays in returning this form, or refusals to return it can lead to significant delays and sometimes even additional money.
If your divorce is amicable, then your spouse should return this form within 7 days and you’ll move onto the next stage of proceedings.
4. Decree Nisi Pronouncement
At this stage in the divorce proceedings, you reach the interim divorce certificate, which is called the decree nisi. This certificate says that you are entitled to a divorce and that it will be made final after a mandatory cooling-off period of 6 weeks following the making of the decree nisi.
As long as neither you nor your spouse contests the divorce petition, you need to fill out an application for a Decree Nisi and a statement of truth. This is a legal document that states the court finds no objections to your divorce.
If either spouse objects to the divorce petition, it will be necessary to attend a hearing. At that point in time, the court will decide whether or not your divorce petition should be granted. This part of the process goes much more smoothly when both parties are in agreement.
The decree nisi application is dealt with by a District Judge of the Family Court who will;
• A) Make sure the forms have been completed correctly
• B) Make sure the law has been complied with
• C) Make sure the Family Proceeding Rules have been complied with
If the judge is satisfied that all these elements have been complied with, they will grant the decree nisi.
If not, the divorce will be refused and directions are given as to what needs to be done in order to satisfy the judge.
5. Decree Absolute (Final decree)
Once a Decree Nisi has been granted and you have waited 6 weeks, you are now ready to progress to the final step in the proceedings. At this point, unless there has been a change of heart and you have got back together, you should apply for your decree absolute.
This is the legal document that officially dissolves your marriage.
Make sure you file for your decree absolute within a year after the Decree Nisi is granted, as otherwise, you’ll have to go through more court proceedings.
How to deal with your finances in divorce
Contrary to popular belief, obtaining a divorce does not sever your financial ties or ongoing commitments to or from your ex-spouse, it merely dissolves your marriage.
The mistake many couples make when filing for divorce is that they fail to obtain a financial order to legally separate assets and finances. This needs to be made legal by obtaining either a clean break order or a financial consent order depending on the complexity of your financial affairs.
Unfortunately, they wrongly believe that because they have an amicable relationship with their former spouse it’s unnecessary, or they believe that getting a divorce means the finances are automatically sorted.
Obtaining a financial order is done separately from the divorce proceedings and is the only way to legally divide your assets and finances. Without one, you are financially tied, even many years after divorcing.
How to get a financial settlement after a divorce
We understand that legal phrases like financial order or financial settlement can sound daunting, but we can help you obtain a legally binding financial order without needing to spend thousands on solicitors.
If you are looking to separate assets, property, pensions, or child arrangements such as visitation or maintenance, then you will require a judge to grant a financial consent order that documents these details.
Dealing with your finances at the same time as your divorce is the only legal way to guarantee that neither party can claim against the other in the future.
Divorce-Online has helped over 40,000 couples obtain a consent order from just £199 fixed fee.
We can put your agreed financial settlement into a consent order and explain how to file it yourself, or actually deal with the entire process for you.
How to Get a Divorce with Divorce-Online
Going through a divorce is an extremely difficult time that takes a great toll on everyone involved in the relationship, especially if you don’t understand how to get a divorce, or how to complete the divorce papers.
From children to finances and belongings, many arrangements need to be made before you can even contemplate filing your own divorce papers without hiring divorce solicitors.
Not only is the divorce process daunting, but it can also be a considerable expense when handled by divorce solicitors, which adds more stress to an already stressful time.
However, it is possible to file the required divorce forms yourself, especially when both parties are in agreement.
Divorce-Online can help you obtain a quick divorce without spending a fortune on solicitors. When choosing our quicker, easier, and fixed-fee services this will be the divorce process:
How long does the average divorce take?
The average time it takes to go from filing a divorce petition to receiving a decree absolute in England and Wales is roughly 6-7 months. However, it can take up to 3 months to get a Decree Nisi and 10 months for the Decree Absolute in some cases.
Where you live and in which court your application is filed can cause delays as some courts have seen longer delays than others due to the impact of COVID.
What can you do to speed it up further?
There are certain things you can do to speed up the divorce process including:
- Agree on the grounds for divorce before petitioning
- Have experts draft your divorce petition to avoid any mistakes
- File for divorce online instead of doing a paper application
Taking these actions is likely to achieve a divorce up to 12 weeks quicker.
What is the easiest way to file for divorce?
The easiest way to divorce in England & Wales is to have been separated for 2 years with your spouse in agreement and be willing to sign the divorce papers to confirm. This option does not require a judge to make a decision on the facts of the case.
If you have been separated for 2 years, but still live in the same house, there will be difficulties but it’s still possible under certain strict criteria. Please contact us to get advice on your individual arrangements.
Divorce-Online can still help even if your spouse will not sign the divorce papers, you do not know their current address or if you want to file for divorce using different grounds, such as unreasonable behaviour.
How much does a divorce service cost?
The Gov.uk website does not offer a divorce service for £593 as some people seem to think – this is just simply the court filing fee and not a service. However, you may be eligible for help paying court and tribunal fees if you are on certain benefits or have a low income.
Furthermore, the Gov.uk website will not be able to advise you on filing your own divorce papers, how to complete the forms or what to put in them, they simply just provide the forms!
Divorce-Online has a range of award-winning divorce services that help couples obtain a quick, easy and cheap divorce from as little as just £59 for a DIY Divorce.
However for complete peace of mind we recommend our Managed Divorce Service for £199 – It’s the quickest and easiest way to obtain a divorce, because we handle your entire divorce procedure whilst keeping you fully updated on the progress.
Divorce & Financial Agreement Combined
As previously mentioned, obtaining a financial order must be done separately from the divorce proceedings. It’s the only way to legally divide your assets and finances. Without one, you remain financially tied to your former spouse, even many years after your divorce.
For that reason, we highly recommend using our combined Managed Divorce & Consent Order fixed-fee service.
Divorce-Online can manage your entire divorce procedure for you and also obtain your consent order to put your financial settlement into legal effect. The Managed Divorce & Consent Order fixed fee service costs just £499 and could save you over £1,500 compared to using high-street solicitors.
Why Choose Our Managed Divorce & Detailed Consent Order Service?
- You will save yourself over £1,500 compared to using high-street solicitors.
- You can track your entire divorce & financial order procedures online.
- You will obtain your divorce and consent order in 8-10 weeks quicker than most other ways.
- There is no need for separate representation as we deal with both parties.
- There are no hidden or hourly charges – just a one-off payment of £599 including VAT.
- Qualified solicitors with over 10 years of experience handling your financial order.
Managed Divorce & Consent Order Service – £499
Divorce-Online will manage your entire divorce for you and also obtain a consent order to put your financial settlement into legal effect. This service costs just £499 fixed fee, and could save you over £1,500 compared to using high-street solicitors.