How Long Does a Divorce Take in the UK?

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Divorce in the UK


Divorce in the UK brings an end to a legal marriage and can quite understandably be a difficult time for the parties involved.

One of the most commonly asked questions we hear is “how long does divorce take in the UK?”

Regardless of the circumstances, divorce proceedings can bring various types of uncertainties, including discussions on ancillary relief and child arrangements. Therefore, it can be quite reassuring to individuals to receive clarification on the time frames for different steps in the divorce process.


The Divorce Process for Sole Applicants


To commence the divorce process, a party must provide a divorce petition under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

The sole applicant must make a statement must provide that under s1(2), their divorce has “broken down irretrievably”. Recent updates in family law mean that parties are no longer required to assign blame for the breakdown of the marriage itself. Once a party has stated that the marriage has “irretrievably” broken down, the court will take this at face value.

This statement acts as a divorce application for a conditional order, previously known as a decree nisi.

If a party applies as a sole applicant, the other party will be provided with a copy of the divorce application.

Once an application has been made, it will be checked and an acknowledgement of service will be sent to the applicant and the respondent. Following receipt, the respondent is allowed 14 days to provide a response and state whether they agree with the divorce or intend to dispute it. If no response is received, court will not be required.

In matters where the respondent agrees to the divorce, a 20-week waiting period commences. This acts as a cooling off period where the parties can fully consider if this is the choice which they definitely want to make. It is a very big life decision, so it is vital that the parties are well-informed.

If the respondent disagrees with the divorce, they must provide a genuine legal reason. The court will not be satisfied with reasoning which relies on an unwillingness to divorce. A hearing in court may be necessary to clarify this.

Once this has been settled, and at least 6 weeks after the provision of the conditional order, the final order will be provided to the party who applied for the divorce. Previously, this document was known as the decree absolute. At this point, the marriage will have been ended by divorce.


The Divorce Process for Joint Applicants


The divorce process for joint applicants is quite similar to the sole applicant process, with the only difference being that both parties will be provided with an Acknowledgement of Service and a case number following the application. This allows the proceedings to commence without a dispute.

From this point, the process will continue in the same way as the sole applicant process, with the aforementioned 20-week cooling off period and the subsequent 6-week minimum waiting time for the final order.


Start to Finish – How Long Does a Divorce Take in the UK?


The minimum amount of time which a divorce will take is 26 weeks. Nevertheless, it could take longer depending on various factors.

These may include financial provision arrangements, such as the distribution of property and assets. Moreover, when there are children to the marriage, the parties will have to consider chid arrangements.


How Can I Speed Up the Process of Divorce through the Courts?


Unfortunately, when a divorce is being conducted through the courts, the pace of the process will not be controlled by the parties. Ultimately, when a divorce is finalised will depend on the time frames set by the court.

Nevertheless, parties are able to take actions which will decrease the likelihood of delays in the process, these may include:

  • Where it is possible, parties should try their best to remain amicable and non-confrontational when meetings take place. Though this can often be very hard in situations where emotions are involved, it will be beneficial.
  • Parties should also remain organised with their documents, including their marriage certificate, and adhere to any time frames set by the court.
  • Finally, the instruction of a reliable divorce solicitor is vital. Not only does this decrease stress, but it will also help to decrease the chance of delays in the court proceedings because an expert will have extensive knowledge of the process and will act in accordance.


Legal Costs of a Divorce


There is a court fee of £593 for divorcing a partner or ending a civil partnership.

If parties act as litigants in person, they may not face many further costs.

However this is a stressful role and it can often be beneficial to instruct an expert family law solicitor. This should reduce your worries as you can be safe in the knowledge that your case is in good hands.

Though when a solicitor is instructed, the legal costs will rise. The general rule is that parties are responsible for their own costs so they must be prepared to pay their fees themselves unless an exceptional order for costs has been made by the courts. 

To decrease legal costs, parties should try and agree on child arrangements and financial provisions prior to instruction of a solicitor. If this isn’t possible, solicitors will be useful in negotiations because they will act objectively and solely in your best interests.

Legal Aid may be available if you are seeking a divorce due to domestic abuse, or if there is a risk of any party becoming homeless.


Alternatives to Divorce Via the Courts

Collaborative Law provides an alternative route to divorce which does not take place in the courts. As opposed to filling in various forms and being sat in a court room, parties can take part in four-way meetings where all aspects of the separation can be discussed amicably. This can often decrease legal costs as unnecessary hearing fees are not incurred for various issues.

The meetings usually consist of the parties and their representatives. Representation ensures that individuals can ensure that the agreement suits what is best for them and their family.

Contrastingly to the court procedure and its strict time frames, a collaborative divorce can be taken at the pace of the parties.


How Can We Help?                                                            

 Our panel of expert family law solicitors can be on hand to act on your behalf in divorce proceedings. We understand the stress which divorce brings to families and sympathise with the difficulties caused therefore our aim is to ease the issues which may arise.

With varied and extensive knowledge, we can seek experts who can advise on ancillary relief, domestic abuse, and child arrangements.

Furthermore, if you believe that a collaborative divorce would be well-suited to your situation, we can seek a trusted representative.

To talk to an expert and receive a free consultation, please contact us using the form at the top of the page.


How Long Does a Divorce Take in the UK? FAQs

What specific factors can extend the duration of the divorce process beyond the minimum 26 weeks?

Complex Financial Arrangements: The division of complex financial assets, such as business interests, pensions, and investments, can require detailed valuation and negotiation, extending the divorce process.

Disputes Over Child Arrangements: If there are disagreements over child custody, visitation rights, or child support, resolving these issues can add significant time to the divorce timeline.

Contentious Divorces: When one party disagrees with the divorce or the terms proposed by the other party, this can lead to a contested divorce, requiring more court involvement and potentially, court hearings.

Incomplete or Incorrect Documentation: Delays in filing the necessary documents or errors in the paperwork can cause setbacks.

Court Backlogs: The caseload and efficiency of the court system can vary, leading to delays in processing divorce applications and scheduling hearings.


How does the presence of international assets or parties living in different countries affect the divorce timeline and process in the UK?

Jurisdictional Issues: Establishing the appropriate jurisdiction for the divorce can be complex, especially if parties live in different countries or have assets abroad. This may require additional legal proceedings to determine where the divorce should be filed.

Valuation and Division of International Assets: Identifying, valuing, and dividing assets located in other countries can be time-consuming and may require cooperation from foreign legal systems or financial institutions.

Enforcement of Orders: Implementing and enforcing court orders across jurisdictions, such as for the division of property or child support, can be challenging and may necessitate further legal action within those jurisdictions.


What are the criteria for determining eligibility for Legal Aid in divorce cases involving domestic abuse or the risk of homelessness?

Evidence of Domestic Abuse or Child Abuse: Applicants must provide evidence of abuse, such as police reports, injunctions, letters from medical professionals, or statements from domestic abuse support services.

Financial Eligibility: Applicants must meet certain financial criteria, which consider income, capital, and living expenses, to qualify for Legal Aid.

Merits of the Case: The case must have a reasonable chance of success, and the cost of taking the case forward must be justified by the benefit to the applicant.

Risk of Homelessness: For cases involving the risk of homelessness, evidence such as eviction notices or letters from local councils indicating the lack of alternative accommodation may be required.


Divorce Proceedings

Ancillary Relief

Domestic Abuse

Child arrangements

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