On this page, you will find some of the often asked questions regarding divorce related issues. If you have a query that is not covered below, please do not hesitate to contact us.
What are the grounds for divorce?
Within the laws that govern England and Wales, there is only one ground for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Whilst there was previously a requirement to blame one spouse for this on the basis of one or more facts, following the introduction of no-fault divorce on 6th April 2022, this is no longer needed. A simple statement to confirm that the marriage has irretrievable broken down is suffice.
How long do I need to have been married in order to divorce?
You must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least 12 months before filing a petition for divorce.
Do we have to go to court in person to get divorced?
If you and your spouse both agree to get divorced and can reach a reasonable agreement between yourselves on finances and looking after any dependent children, you should be able to get divorced without going to court in person.
How long does the process take and what’s involved?
Following the introduction of No-Fault divorce, it will take a minimum of 26 weeks for a divorce to be finalised by the courts. Ultimately, however, this depends on the circumstances and the degree of cooperation between the parties involved. The divorce process can involve up to three separate elements:
- The divorce itself – i.e. the ending of the marriage.
- Agreement on the financial arrangements, such as how the assets will be divided and whether any maintenance will be payable.
- Agreement on the arrangements for looking after any dependent children.
At the first meeting, your solicitor is required by a code called the Family Law Protocol to consider a number of issues and may need to discuss some of them with you. These issues include the prospects of reconciliation, possible referral to a family mediator, children issues, whether there is a need to limit access to joint bank accounts and credit cards, the need to register rights of occupation of the family home at the Land Registry, and much more.
The process of divorce itself starts when a divorce petition is filed with the court. This petition can be filed as a sole application or a joint application. In a sole application, the applicant's solicitor normally completes the required documents.
In the case of a joint application, the court will send notice of the issued petition to both parties and they must acknowledge receipt of this.
With a sole application, the respondent spouse must file an acknowledgement of service (a document asking the respondent to acknowledge receipt of notice that the applicant wishes to divorce) within 14 days of service. If they intend to dispute the proceedings, they must file notice of this within 21 days, following the initial 14 days. Although a spouse will no longer be able to defend a divorce, they can still dispute the proceedings on restricted legislative grounds such as whether the court in England and Wales has jurisdiction over the marriage, the validity of the marriage or if the marriage has already been legally ended.
The applicant(s) must then wait a minimum of 20 weeks before confirming that they wish to proceed with the divorce. These 20 weeks of meaningful reflection can be used by the parties to co-operate amicably in getting their affairs in order and planning for the future.
Following this, the court will make a Conditional Order (previously known as a Decree Nisi).
After a minimum of 6 weeks, the courts can make a Final Order (previously known as a Decree Absolute). This signifies the official dissolution of the marriage.
We would, however, always advise that parties reach a financial settlement before applying for a Final Order, so as to not limit the finances available in a settlement (such as pensions). As such, the length of time it takes to reach a financial settlement will ultimately delay the divorce being finalised.
What is mediation and do we have to do it?
Mediation is the process of assisting two individuals who are involved in a family breakdown to communicate more effectively with each other, allowing them to make informed and agreed on decisions regarding issues arising out of their relationship breakdown. You are not legally required to try mediation but a skilled mediator can help you to work together to reach an agreement that you both feel is fair. This may provide a less confrontational approach than communicating through your solicitors from the outset and can help to reduce your costs.
Who do I have to notify that I am divorced and what documents will they want to see?
You need to notify anyone who needs to know about your marital status. For example:
You should notify your employer, particularly if you have any health benefits, pension scheme or other employment related benefits which may be affected.
If you are receiving benefits, you should notify the Department for Work and Pensions. (In fact, you may need to notify them earlier if you separate, as this can affect some benefits).
If you have joint arrangements, such as joint bank accounts or memberships, you should inform the organisation concerned.
You should conduct a financial audit to ensure any insurance policies or any other policies have the correct beneficiaries.
You should consider making an up to date Will if you have not already done so.
A copy of the Final Order (previously known as a Decree Absolute), or in some cases the original certificate, is generally all the documentary evidence that you need to provide.