Frequently Asked Questions on Divorce

Since the recent change in the law, there is no longer any need for one party to blame the other when seeking a divorce. This has removed a lot of the challenges and potential for acrimony from the divorce process. The difficulties tend to lie rather in resolving the related practical issues stemming from divorce such as how to separate, where to live, arrangements over the children and any money matters. Your attention will probably be concentrated on those related issues and the process of actually getting the decree may seemed blurred. However, there is still a process that needs to be complied with in order to get a divorce. We will try and outline a broad framework of the divorce process, to highlight key points and to set out the sort of timetable to expect.

Anyone who has been married for over a year provided one or the other of the couple is either domiciled here or has been resident in England or Wales during the preceding year. It does not matter if the marriage took place overseas or in the UK so long as it is a valid civil marriage.

The only ground for a divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Following the recent change in the law, you don’t need to give any explanation or reason for why the marriage has irretrievably broken down. It is enough for one or other spouse, or both, to say that it has.

It is possible for one spouse to apply for a divorce unilaterally, but it is often sensible to try and discuss the matter with your spouse first. Surprising someone with a divorce can make it harder to agree the more complicated practical matters about finances or care of children.

Previously, one party to a divorce had to blame the other for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This meant that it was impossible to make a joint application. Since the change in the law, it is now possible to make an application for divorce jointly with your spouse. If you both agree that the marriage is over, then we can start the application for you and set up the divorce. A link will be sent to your spouse to access the online portal where they can confirm that they want a joint application. If your spouse withdraws their cooperation part-way through a joint application, you can change it to a sole application and continue the process that way.

Making a joint application is one way to keep your divorce more amicable. Both parties may feel less attacked and more cooperative. This may make it easier to settle other issues in dispute between you and your spouse. However, there is no real practical difference between making a joint application and a sole application. In particular, whether you make a joint application or apply for divorce on your own will not affect the split of your finances or any issues concerning children.

When you have decided whether you are going to make a joint application or a sole application, the next step will be to complete the divorce petition through the Court Service’s online portal. The petition contains basic information about names, addresses, ages of children and a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The petition will include a section (known as a “prayer”) which will include a request for the divorce to be granted. It may also include a request for an order relating to children; a claim regarding costs of the divorce; and an order for financial provision. Once this is completed online, and we have uploaded a copy of your marriage certificate, the process will start.

The new procedure sets out a timetable for a divorce to be dealt with. After the process is started, the court will produce a petition which must be sent to the other party within 28 days. The other party will then have 14 days to respond. Assuming that they don’t dispute the divorce, which can only be done on technical grounds, you can apply for a conditional order of divorce (previously know as a “decree nisi”) 20 weeks after the petition is produced by the court. Once the court grants the conditional order of divorce, there is a waiting period of six weeks before you can apply for a final order of divorce (previously called a “decree absolute”). In total, the process is expected to take a little over 26 weeks or six months.

The initial application must set out the names and dates of birth of any children of the marriage, but starting a divorce does not mean you are obliged to start court proceedings concerning your children. It is almost always best to reach an agreement about caring for your children outside of court. See our separate guide [LINK HERE] for more information about how to approach the question of caring for your children after divorce.

The Court charges a fee of £593 to start proceedings. We offer a fixed fee of £600 plus VAT to deal with your application for divorce on a sole or joint basis.

Our team of experienced family lawyers all work on all aspects of family cases. We can provide a joined-up and holistic service to suit your needs. We have experience in all kinds of family cases from a simple joint application for divorce to complex multi-jurisdictional cases over children, finances, trusts, businesses, and large asset portfolios.

Very often financial discussion will not have been completed by the time the decree absolute can be pronounced. It is not necessary for financial discussions to be completed by the time the divorce is final. Frequently they will still be in early stages if finances are complicated.

Your Solicitor will explain the procedure, can assist with your application and, provided sufficient information is known, can calculate the maintenance likely to be assessed by the Child Support Agency if you have children. Your solicitor will explain the possible financial effects of the pronouncement of the final order of divorce – for example, with regard to National Insurance contributions, pension entitlement and protection of your rights of occupation in the matrimonial home if it is not in joint names.

Court proceedings in family law are usually private. This means that the public and press are not allowed access to the Court papers. However, the press are able to publish the fact the divorce has been pronounced. The information that they may disclose is very limited.

You do not have to attend mediation to apply for a divorce. However, if you want to apply to the court to make any arrangements for your children or finances then you will need to show that you have had a meeting with a mediator to get advice about the mediation process. This is called a Mediation Information and Advice Meeting, or MIAM. The mediator will complete a form confirming that they have advised you about the mediation process before you start your application for an order concerning finances or children.

More generally, mediation is an effective way to settle disputes about finances or children. Reaching an agreement through mediation is probably the best way to separate your finances if possible. It will be cheaper and quicker than court proceedings, and is also likely to be less damaging to your relationship with your former spouse. This can be important if you will need to co-parent children in the future.
Some mediators we have worked with before are below:

Mediation in Divorce (MID), Templeton Lodge, 114 High Street, Hampton Hill, TW12 1NT

Phone: 020 8891 6860


The National Family Mediation Service which can help you locate local mediators 9 Tavistock Place London WC1H 9SN Telephone No: 0171 383 5993

The Central Middlesex Family Mediation Civic Centre Complex Station Road Harrow Middlesex HA1 2HX Telephone No: 0208 427 2076

The Divorce Mediation and Counselling Service 33 Ebury Street London SW1W OLU Telephone No: 0207 730 2422

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