Divorce/dissolution is the legal process by which a marriage/civil partnership is terminated. It is a permanent measure and cannot be undone once the final decree or order has been granted. Below you will find a factsheet that explains everything you need to know.
The divorce/dissolution process in the UK
Firstly, you must issue an application for divorce (previously referred to as a petition) in court. On the 6th of April 2022, divorce law changes and an application for divorce/dissolution will no longer need to cite one of five facts (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation by consent, 5 years separation without consent, or desertion). Under the new law (The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020), an application will instead be based on a statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
The new laws now allow for a no-fault divorce, which lets partners split more amicably than before.
Filing for divorce
A spouse can file a sole application, or both spouses can file a joint application if they wish. A joint application can subsequently be ‘switched’ to a sole application (at the conditional order or final order application stage). A sole application cannot be changed to a joint application. Whether to file a sole or joint application should be considered in advance of filing an application.
It can be beneficial to speak to your partner about your intentions to file for divorce or dissolution, especially if you are on civil terms with them. However, you will also want to receive legal advice early. A divorce lawyer will be able to give you their advice on how to handle your predicament and get you the support needed in case your divorce becomes complicated.
Disputing the divorce process in the UK
A respondent spouse will only be able to dispute an application in limited circumstances. They cannot dispute whether the marriage has broken down. They can only dispute the application because of the jurisdiction of the court to conduct the divorce in England and Wales; whether the marriage is valid, or the marriage has already legally ended. It will also be possible to challenge proceedings for reasons such as fraud and procedural compliance.
Although a separate application for an order for costs against the respondent can be filed, under the new divorce law it will be unusual to do so. It may be considered in exceptional circumstances, such as where additional legal costs have been incurred due to the respondent’s actions in the proceedings. For example, if it is necessary to prove the respondent has been served with the divorce application.
Divorce applications are generally dealt with electronically, although a paper application will be necessary for certain circumstances. The application is filed on the online HMCTS portal and there is a court fee of £593, in addition to your solicitors’ costs for preparing the application. You must also submit your original marriage/civil partnership certificate or a certified copy obtained from the Register Office.
If it is a sole application, your spouse will then need to respond to the application using the standard court reply form within 14 days. If your spouse does not respond at all, you may need to take additional steps to prove that your spouse is aware of the application (even if they still do not wish to reply).
The UK divorce process period
From the 6th of April 2022, there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from the date the court issues the application to the date that an application for conditional order (previously referred to as decree nisi) can be filed. When 20 weeks have passed, the next stage is to apply for a conditional order. A statement of truth is signed confirming that the facts stated in the application are true and making any amendments or corrections may be necessary. The court will then consider your application and decide whether it may proceed. Usually, the court will set a date for the pronouncement of the conditional order.
Once the conditional order is pronounced, you must wait at least 6 weeks and 1 day from that date to apply for the final order (previously referred to as decree absolute). If the respondent has applied to the court to consider their financial position after the divorce, the court must not make the final order unless it is satisfied no financial provision is required or, if it is, that the applicant is making appropriate provision. In any event, we may recommend delaying the application for the final order in cases where a financial settlement has not yet been finalised. Your legal advisor will discuss this with you at the relevant time.
We offer a range of fee options for divorce or dissolution proceedings, including fixed fees in eligible cases. If you require further information regarding this, please email our family department at [email protected].
Speak to Goodlaw family lawyers
Have questions regarding divorce/dissolution of your marriage or civil partnership? Make sure to get in touch with our family lawyers by contacting your nearest Goodlaw branch. Our Sussex team can be reached on 01273 956 270 and our Surrey team on 01252 471 211.