Frequently Asked Questions about Divorce in the UK

Here are some of the most commonly asked divorce questions we get asked as family law solicitors in the UK.


Who can start the divorce proceedings?

Either person in the marriage can file for divorce. The person applying for the divorce and issuing a Petition is the Petitioner the other spouse will then be the Respondent. The Petitioner will choose the grounds for divorce and could ask for the other spouse to pay the legal fees.


What are the Grounds for Divorce?

In England and Wales, the person petitioning for a divorce must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one or more of the following five facts:

  • - Desertion
  • - Adultery
  • - 2 years separation with consent
  • - 5 years separation (no consent required)
  • - Unreasonable behaviour

FYI ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ is classed as behaviour of your spouse that you find unreasonable and as such unable to live with. This can include the following: verbal abuse, violence, disrespectful behaviour or it can be a behaviour that you personally find unacceptable.


How Long Does A Divorce Take?

That can depend on your circumstances and how overloaded the court system is in your area. If your financial matters are in order and you are in agreement it can take roughly six months on average. If not, it can take between one to two years, especially if there are a high level of assets involved.


How Much does a Divorce Cost in the UK?

The person issuing the divorce petition pays a base rate of £750 plus vat and a court fee of £550. The recipient will have to pay £100 plus vat assuming that person agrees that the marriage has broken down. So, in theory your divorce could cost less than £1500 in total. For a more realistic estimate, a survey by Aviva Family Finance found the average cost of marital breakdown is £14,500 – a figure that has risen 14% since 2014.

However, in our experience this can rise significantly where financial proceedings are issued and contested. This is why we suggest mediation at the outset to try to avoid litigation costs.


What is the Divorce Process?

To apply for a divorce, you will need your husband or wife’s full name, address and your original marriage certificate. As well as any proof of name change if you’ve changed it since you got married. If you cannot find the original marriage certificate, contact the relevant registry office and ask them for another. You will need to provide them with both of the names and the date of the marriage.

Then you file for a divorce. By filling in a divorce petition form you will start the divorce proceedings. You must send this to the court and pay the court fee to issue proceedings. You can do so online via the government portal and fill in the divorce application ‘divorce petition’ form, otherwise known as a D8. You need to send three copies of the form to your nearest divorce centre.

Once you have acknowledgement of the divorce from the respondent (and confirmation that it will not be defended) the next stage is to apply for a decree nisi. This a document that says the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce. The court will grant a decree nisi if the paperwork is in order and is satisfied with the ground and facts relied on. If your husband or wife does not agree to the divorce, you can still apply for a decree nisi at this stage but you will have to go to a court hearing to discuss the case, where a judge will decide whether to grant you it.

After the decree nisi has been granted you will have to wait 43 days (six weeks and one day) to apply for a decree absolute. This is a legal document that ends your marriage. You should take legal advice before applying for the decree absolute.


If I Don’t get a Divorce can, I get an Annulment?

It is unusual to end a marriage by annulment. That is where marriages, for one reason or another, were either void at the outset or have become voidable at some point after formation.

Reasons for annulments may include the parties were closely related (e.g. parent and child or siblings), either party was under 16 years old, or at the time of marriage, one party was married to someone else. If your circumstances are suited to an annulment you start the process by filling in a D8N Nullity petition and sending it to a court that deals in divorce / civil partnership matters.

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