Advice For You

The Divorce Process

The divorce process can be complicated especially during an emotional time. From the processes involved in a divorce to timings and court expectations our Divorce and Family Law specialist can advise you on the divorce process.

In the first instance, we have put together a step-by-step guide to the divorce process to answer some of the questions you might have before speaking to a Divorce Solicitor.

Understanding the facts and process of Divorce

You will have had to have been married for at least a year to obtain a divorce.

If you have been married for less than a year then you cannot obtain a divorce but you may be able to apply for an annulment if you meet the legal criteria.

Divorce refers to orders for married couples and civil partnership dissolution refers to orders for civil partners.

The process of Divorce

A couple must have been married for at least one year before divorce proceedings can be started.

The person who starts the divorce proceedings is known as the "applicant" if it is a sole application and the other spouse is known as the "respondent". If it is a joint application then one spouse will be “Applicant 1” and the other spouse will be “Applicant 2”.

We will need to determine that the Court in England and Wales have the jurisdiction (the legal power) to deal with the divorce. This depends upon the habitual residence or domicile of one or both of the parties to the marriage. Our specialist Divorce and Family Law Solicitors will discuss this with you to ensure that the Court in England and Wales can deal with your divorce.

A Divorce is dealt with through the Court and deals with the dissolution of your marriage. You will remain legally married until the final divorce order (formerly known as the Decree Absolute) is made by the Court.

There is only one ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

We will need your original marriage certificate before issuing the Divorce application (formerly the divorce petition)  and the Court fee (currently £593) or duly completed fee remission form (if you meet the means criteria).

The application is issued and given a case number. The application must be served upon the respondent within 28 days of issue. We require an email address for the respondent as the preferred method of service will be by email. We will also need to send a copy of the papers in the post. If there are difficulties with serving your spouse this will attract additional costs.

You must wait a period of 20 weeks between the date of issue and the first opportunity you can apply for the conditional order. You must then wait 6 weeks and a day from the date of the conditional order before you can apply for the final order.

The divorce proceedings will therefore take at least 7 months to complete.

Conditional Order (formerly known as Decree Nisi)

The Court will send a copy of the Acknowledgement of Service form to the Petitioner who will then be able to apply for the Conditional Order assuming everything is in order and the divorce is not disputed. (It is no longer possible to defend a divorce but it can be disputed on very narrow grounds.

The application for Conditional Order is sent to Court and the divorce file will then be looked at by a Judge/Legal Adviser who will consider whether they are satisfied that the Applicant is entitled to the divorce. The Court will send out an Order which will give the date for the Conditional Order hearing and any costs order that may be made. It is now very difficult to pursue a costs order against your spouse and a separate application would have to be made to the court to pursue costs in the absence of any agreement reached between you regarding the payment of costs. Such an application may not be cost effective to pursue.

You will not usually need to attend the Conditional Order hearing unless there is an issue with costs. The Court will make the Conditional Order in everyone’s absence. You must wait a period of 20 weeks between the date of issue and the first opportunity you can apply for the conditional order. You must then wait 6 weeks and a day from the date of the conditional order before you can apply for the final order.

Final Order (formerly Decree Absolute)

As set out above the Applicant can apply for the Final Order six weeks and a day after the Conditional Order date.

If the Applicant does not apply then the Respondent can do so three months after the date the Applicant could first apply. The Respondent has to apply on notice which means that there will be a Court hearing. If the Applicant has not applied for Final Order due to outstanding financial matters then the Court may refuse to finalise the divorce until a financial Court order is put in place.

The Final Order is the final divorce order and dissolves your marriage. It does not resolve the financial claims that you have against each other and you are advised to obtain a separate Court Order.

For further advice on divorce and finance see our page on financial settlements

The process can be more complicated if you do not have the marriage certificate and cannot obtain a certified copy, you do not know where the Respondent is, the Respondent fails to acknowledge the divorce papers or the Respondent disputes the divorce. We will be able to explain this to you if it applies to your case.

Every case is different and we offer bespoke advice. As a full service law firm, we also look at how divorce and separation can affect different areas of your life. You may need to sell your home and our residential property team can help here. Lastly, whilst marriage revokes an earlier Will, divorce does not, so revisiting your Will on divorce is always a sensible course of action and we can advise accordingly.

How can we help

If you have any questions regarding the process of divorce or want to discuss your options with one of our Divorce and Family Law Solicitors, call us today on 0161 785 3500 or email