The Divorce Process in England & Wales
If your marriage has irretrievably broken down and you wish to get divorced you’ll need to follow the divorce process in England & Wales to obtain a final order (decree absolute).
Please note: The Divorce Law in Scotland is different from the one in England and Wales.
Most people don’t know how to get a divorce, especially without hiring expensive divorce solicitors. However, it can be done without visiting the court or hiring solicitors through no-fault divorce.
The New Divorce Process Explained for England & Wales
Use this information as a guide to the divorce procedure as the court staff cannot provide legal advice or suggest which options are best for you, they simply process your application through the court.
There’s much to know about getting a divorce, especially as England and Wales have different divorce laws from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
We break down the different stages of the divorce process for you step-by-step to make it quick and easy to get an understanding of what is required in order to get a divorce.
The divorce law has now changed and from Wednesday 6 April 2022, you will be able to file a no-fault divorce under the new divorce system.
The divorce procedure has changed and with it so has the legal wording. Use this page to get familiar with the no-fault divorce process and for information on how these changes may affect your divorce application, view our introduction to no-fault divorce.
You cannot begin the divorce proceedings in England and Wales before you have been married for at least 12 months.
Have questions about the divorce process? Chat with us on Live Chat for quick and reliable answers from one of our experienced team (no bots).
Let’s look more closely at the 4 main stages of the no-fault divorce process.
1. Start a Divorce Application
One person starts a divorce by making a divorce application to the court on the basis of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Or, both parties can complete the divorce process together by starting what is known as a joint divorce application.
The previous divorce law required people seeking divorce to give evidence of one or more of five facts to establish the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; 3 are based on ‘fault’ and 2 are based instead on a period of separation.
A no-fault divorce no longer requires you to set out any reasons for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
2. Acknowledgement of Service
The next step in the divorce process involves your partner being sent a copy of the divorce petition and the acknowledgement of service (AOS).
Your partner has 14 days to complete and return the AOS to the court.
20-week Reflection Period
The new divorce law introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made.
This ‘reflection period’ allows a greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable.
Such matters could include child arrangements and the division of any money or assets.
3. Application For the Conditional Order
At this stage, by applying for a conditional order you are asking the court to proceed with the divorce.
4. Court Reviews Your Application
If the court approves your divorce application, they will issue you with a Certificate of Entitlement to confirm the date of your conditional order.
This will typically take a few weeks.
5. The Courts Grants The Conditional Order
At this point, the court has granted you the divorce, which introduces a six-week cooling-off period before being able to apply for the final order.
This period is intended for amicable couples to submit their financial consent order to the court for approval.
6. Application for Financial Order
Couples who have had a solicitor draft them a financial consent order can now apply to the court for approval.
If you submit the financial order at this time, it usually results in being granted alongside your final order (formerly Decree Absolute).
This will prevent any future claims being made by either party and ends all financial ties.
7. Application For Final Order
Apply to the court to legally end your marriage.
8. The Court Grants The Final Order
The final order (decree absolute) will usually be granted within 24 hours.
This order legally ends your marriage and enables you to remarry.
A divorce in England and Wales will take roughly 6-7 months in the most simplest of cases.
The No-Fault Divorce Process
The exact steps involved with the new divorce procedure for a no-fault divorce
One person starts the divorce
The court sends your partner a copy of the petition and acknowledgement of service (AOS). 20-week reflection period starts.
You apply for the conditional order
The court reviews your application
The court grants the conditional order. This starts a 6-week cooling off period before moving onto the next step.
Application for a financial order Submit your financial consent order to the court for approval.
You apply for the final order
The court grants the final order and you are officially divorced
Sorting out your finances following a divorce
Sorting out how money and assets are to be divided following a divorce is often a sore spot for many couples.
Depending on your specific circumstances the ‘matrimonial pot’ may be vast and valuable, or it may be that you are to leave the marriage with what you entered.
If you have agreed to divide any money, property, or pensions then you must obtain a financial court order by having a solicitor draw up a financial order to document the financial settlement you have reached.
If you have no joint money, assets, or children within the marriage (as is the case in most short marriages) then you may be able to achieve a clean break, which will prevent any future claims against either party.
This, however, is not always possible; especially for couples in longer marriages where assets have become mingled, etc.
Read our comparison of a clean break order vs consent order to understand which type of court order is suitable for your circumstances.
Common questions about getting divorced
How much does a divorce cost?
The first point to be aware of is the court fees for divorce. All applicants are required to pay £593 unless they’re exempt from court fees due to being on a low income or receiving certain benefits. Divorce costs can range from £792 – £4,000. You can save money by using an online divorce service, which starts from only £249.
How long does a divorce take?
26 weeks is the minimum timescale for a divorce in England and Wales, but it’s dependent on many factors, such as the court workload.
In reality, it is likely going to take you 7-8 months irrespective of how you decide to file for divorce.
Can I not just do my own divorce?
In some cases, doing your own divorce will work out absolutely fine. However, in others, especially where there is non-compliance or valuable financial negotiations to settle, the DIY divorce route may not be recommended.
Do I need a solicitor to get divorced?
There is no official or legal requirement for divorce applicants to instruct a solicitor. Using solicitors for initial legal advice is recommended to ensure you understand your legal position and potential future financial implications. However, applying for divorce is simpler and more cost-effective when using an online divorce service.
I don’t have an address for my ex – what happens?
This is common in marriages where couples have been separated for many years. The divorce process does become more complex and sometimes more expensive as the court will require you to go through more hoops to prove you have tried to locate your ex-husband or wife.
How quickly can a simple divorce with no assets to completed?
Since no-fault divorce has been introduced, even a simple divorce with no children or assets to share takes a minimum of 26 weeks. If the workload of the court you submit your application to isn’t heavy and there are no errors on the application, you can get divorced within 7 months.
Is divorce automatic after a long separation?
Unfortunately, this is one of the most common myths surrounding divorce. There is no such thing as ‘automatic divorce’ in England and Wales. To end your marriage contract, regardless of how many years you have been separated, you are required to submit a divorce application to the courts to legally end your marriage.
Divorce-Online can help with the divorce process
Divorce-Online has helped over 150,000+ couples in England and Wales obtain a quick, easy and affordable divorce, by taking away the need to instruct solicitors for your case. See: How to Start Divorce Proceedings
We can help you complete your divorce for as little as £249 including VAT which also includes our experts advising you on your divorce application.
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