The time it takes to get a divorce depends on the circumstances of each case. It will also depend on if both parties agree whether it is an uncontested or contested divorce, whether it is fast-tracked, dealt with online or through lawyers. Other considerations include the waiting periods involved and the complexity of the case.
If you wish to have a ‘fast’ divorce in the UK, then it is helpful to try and agree as much as possible with your partner beforehand to enable matters to proceed undefended which will allow costs to be minimised. Generally, the average divorce can take from nine months to a year, or sooner if both parties agree. Here we look at the approximately timings in more detail:
Following recent changes to the law, there is no longer ‘fault divorce’. The only basis to proceed now is ‘no-fault divorce’. This means that you can apply for a divorce on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, but there is no longer a requirement to state the reason for this. Read more on What are the legal reasons for divorce? This process can take several weeks to several months.
Divorce application process
There are various stages in the divorce application process. To give you an idea of what is involved and timings, we have outlined the steps:
- Complete the divorce petition form and provide the required information, including the grounds for divorce and details of your marriage.
- File the divorce petition with the court, along with the court fee of £550.
- Serve the divorce petition on your spouse. This can be done by personal service, or by sending the petition by post, or by leaving the petition at your spouse’s address.
- Wait for your spouse to respond to the divorce petition. Your spouse has 8 days to acknowledge receipt of the petition if it was served in person, or within 14 days if it was sent by post.
- If your spouse agrees to the divorce, you can take steps to apply for a consent order, which will make the divorce final.
- If your spouse does not agree to the divorce, you may need to attend a court hearing. If a Fault Divorce is contested it can be contested on the basis that the allegations are untrue or on the basis that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down.
- Attend the divorce hearing, if necessary. At the hearing, the judge will consider the evidence and make a decision on the divorce.
There are waiting periods that apply before you can apply for a conditional order, including the requirement to wait 14 days after the divorce petition has been filed, and the requirement to wait several weeks before you can apply for a decree nisi.
If you have children, the divorce process may take longer if there are disputes about child arrangements that need to be resolved. In these cases, you may be required to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM) before making an application to the court.
If you and your spouse are making a joint application for a divorce, the process can be quicker, as there is no need for a court hearing. However, you will still need to wait for the cooling off period of 14 days to pass before the divorce can proceed.
If you are the sole applicant for a divorce, the process can take longer, as the court will need to serve the divorce petition on your spouse and wait for their acknowledgement of service. If your spouse contests the divorce, the process can take several months to a year or more.
Applying for a Conditional Order (previously Decree Nisi)
Once the waiting periods have passed and the divorce application has been approved by the court, an application for a conditional order will be granted. This is a legally binding order that confirms that your marriage has ended but is not the final order previously known as the ‘decree absolute’.
Final Order (previously Decree Absolute)
To obtain a decree absolute, which is the final order that officially ends your marriage, you will need to wait for a period of six weeks and one day after the decree nisi has been granted. There can also be delays since prudent divorce lawyers will advise their clients not to apply for Decree Absolute until the financial side of matters have been fully concluded.
The reason for this is that divorce can affect wills, pensions and insurance policies and if decree absolute has been granted and the party dies, then the claims will vanish. No decree absolute should be granted until all the finances mentioned above have been properly worked out so that they can be put into effect to avoid any difficulties.
The divorce application itself is separate from the financial matters that can take up to a year if they are defended and they go to court. If you were to take the court process, this can take up to nine months to a year because of the delays in the system. Whatever route you choose to go, do not underestimate the fact that there can be delays, unexpected adjournments or illness which may prevent a hearing.
Sometimes parties can elect to have a private hearing which will allow the parties to instruct an independent Judge to deal with the matter to see if the Judge can help the parties to achieve settlement. This can speed up the process rather than waiting for a Court timetable to appoint a Financial Dispute Resolution hearing.
When to contact our Divorce Lawyers in London
It’s important to note that the divorce process can take longer if there are disputes or complexities involved, such as disputes over property or financial settlements. If you are applying for a divorce, it’s always a good idea to seek legal advice to understand the divorce laws and the steps involved, and to ensure that your divorce proceedings are handled correctly and efficiently.
Based in London, we pride ourselves upon our caring approach to all our clients. We cover a range of legal issues including divorce, separation, financial disputes and settlements, arrangements for children, adoption, surrogacy, cohabitation, harassment and domestic abuse and international family law matters.
Our expert divorce solicitors are here to help guide you through your divorce and all the elements that go with that, including childcare arrangements and financial settlements. We will also advise whether your case is appropriate for mediation, where you can receive guidance from our trained mediators and a collaborative lawyer.
Read more about our Divorce Lawyers in London.
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