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Getting a divorce in the UK - FAQs

What do I need to know before I apply for divorce?


Before you apply for divorce, you need to check if you're eligible. Couples wanting to divorce in the UK need to meet specific criteria before approaching the Courts. You can get divorce in England or Wales if all of the following are true:

  • You’ve been married for over a year

  • Your relationship has permanently broken down

  • Your marriage is legally recognised in the UK (including same sex marriage)

  • The UK is your permanent home, or the permanent home of your husband or wife

It's important to note that you'll need to have been married for a least a year before you can get divorced. If not, you'll have to wait until one year of your marriage has passed. Alternatively, you might be able to annul your marriage if you're eligible. Speak to our experienced family law solicitors to explore your options.

 

What are the fees for divorce in the UK?


If you are the applicant of the divorce, you’ll need to pay a £550 fee when you send your divorce application to the divorce centre. If you can’t afford the fee, you may be able to get support. You can find out more about getting help with court fees here.


If you’ve paid the fee but think your partner should pay it, you can tick a box on the form asking the court to consider asking your partner to pay it instead. If the court agrees, your partner will have to pay you the money back when your divorce has been finalised.


It is important to note that you need to file your petition where you live, not where you are from or where you got married.

 

How do I apply for a divorce in the UK?


The UK divorce process begins with a divorce petition which is sent to the Courts. Either party can apply for a divorce but whoever applies for the divorce petition will have to pay the Court fee. This person will be known as the Petitioner and the other party is known as the Respondent. The petition will be processed by the court and a sealed (officially stamped) copy will be sent to both the petitioner and the respondent.

There are three key considerations as part of the divorce process in the UK:

  • formally ending the marriage - which means completing the divorce itself

  • financial arrangements, such as how the assets will be divided including any property matter and/or whether any maintenance agreements should be made;

  • dependent child arrangement orders including care and maintenance

Alongside the sealed divorce petition, the respondent will also receive an acknowledgment of service the paperwork. The respondent will need to answer some questions, such as whether they agree with the information the petitioner has given in the divorce petition.


Once the respondent has returned the acknowledgment of service to the court, the petitioner can apply for a Decree Nisi. This is the penultimate stage of the divorce process. A Decree Nisi is a provisional decree of divorce that is granted when the Court is satisfied that the legal and procedural requirements to obtain a divorce have been met. This is not an indication that the divorce has been finalised yet, although it will outline the date your marriage will end.

After receiving the Decree Nisi, the person applying for divorce must wait six weeks and one day until they can apply for a Decree Absolute. This gives both parties enough time to agree on any financial arrangements or commitments. This must be in place before you apply for the Decree Absolute. If there are any financial disputes, it is crucial that you rely on trusted legal advice from a divorce solicitor.

Once you have received a Decree Absolute, this is formal confirmation that the marriage has ended and you are now legally divorced.



How long does it take to get a divorce in the UK?

A relatively straightforward divorce typically takes six to eight months, provided that you both deal with the court papers promptly. It may be possible to speed this process up, for example, if you want to get married as soon as possible – though this may include increased costs.

 

What do I need to prove to get a divorce?

When you apply for a divorce, you’ll need to prove that your marriage has broken down and cannot be saved. You’ll need to prove one or more of the following 5 grounds for divorce.


Adultery

You must be able to prove that your husband or wife had sexual intercourse with someone else of the opposite sex (committed adultery). You cannot give adultery as a reason if you lived together as a couple for more than 6 months after you found out about it.


Unreasonable Behaviour

This is applicable where your husband or wife has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. This could include (but is not limited to):

  • physical violence

  • verbal abuse, such as insults or threats

  • drunkenness or drug taking

  • refusing to pay towards shared living expenses

Desertion

This ground for divorce applied when your husband or wife has left for at least 2 years before you apply for divorce. You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months in this period, but that will not count towards the 2 years.


You’ve been separated for at least 2 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least 2 years before applying for a divorce and you both agree to it. Your partner must agree in writing. It may be possible for you to show that you’ve been separated while living in the same home as your wife or husband as long as you’re not living together as a couple

You’ve been separated for at least 5 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least 5 years before applying, even if your partner disagrees.


 

What should I do if my spouse does not respond to my divorce petition?

If your spouse ignores your divorce petition, you can arrange to have the paperwork formally served on them. This involves a process server going to hand the paperwork to them in person. The process server will certify to the court that they have received your divorce petition. This is the proof the court needs.


Alternatively, you can ask the court to make an order that your spouse is “deemed” to have received the paperwork. You will need proof that that they have received your divorce petition, such as a text message or an e-mail. If granted, the order means the court is satisfied that your spouse has received your divorce petition. This means the court is satisfied that your spouse has received your divorce petition.

 

Can we get divorce if we are foreign nationals and got married overseas?


You can get divorced in England provided that at least one of you has been habitually resident in England for the year leading up to the date when you file for divorce. You can also get divorced in England if one or both of you are domiciled in England, even if you are not resident here.

 

Get in touch with our family law solicitors

Family law is a sensitive area and cases can significantly impact the lives of everyone involved. Our experienced family law team therefore always aim to provide a service that is sensitive to your situation. Our family solicitors are regulated by the Solicitor Regulation Authority and come with a wealth of family law experience to deal with even the most complex cases. ​ In most divorce cases it is not necessary to have court proceedings, as long as communications are handled with care and understanding. Our divorce solicitors can help individuals during each step of the divorce process and will keep you informed at every stage.