How to File for Divorce in the UK

Mar 12, 2024   ·   6 minute read
woman listens attentively to man looking at divorce attorney. Attorney in business suit is sitting at office table, listening to discussion of divorcing couple.

Deciding to file for divorce is never an easy decision to make. In this blog, our divorce solicitors take you through the steps of filing for divorce in England.

For expert advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.

Starting no-fault divorce proceedings

Before you start no-fault divorce proceedings it is worth considering if counselling is an option to help sort out the marital issues that led you to contemplate starting divorce proceedings. For some couples counselling is not appropriate. For others, counselling will sort out the problems or it will help you confirm that a divorce is the best option for you and may help you split up amicably and go your separate ways.

Once you have decided you want to start divorce proceedings the next step is looking at whether you have the grounds to do so. You need to:

  1. Have been married for at least 12 months – if you have been married for less than 12 months, we can help you get the divorce paperwork ready or assist you with a separation agreement so you can record your financial agreement. Once you have started the divorce proceedings you can convert your separation agreement into a financial court order
  2. Meet the court jurisdiction criteria for domicile or habitual residence – if one of you is not a British citizen or is in the UK on a visa our divorce solicitors can look at court jurisdiction in more detail with you but the key point is that you don’t need to be a British national or have settled status to get divorced in England
  3. Be able to say that your marriage has irretrievably broken down – but under the no-fault divorce process you do not need to explain why you are separating and you do not need to have been separated for a minimum period

Applying for a fault divorce

To apply for a no-fault divorce, you file a divorce application and state that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Before starting the divorce process, it is best to speak to a divorce solicitor about your divorce options. There are 3:

  • You and your husband or wife can apply jointly for a no-fault divorce or
  • You can apply for the divorce or
  • Your husband or wife can apply for the divorce

Our divorce solicitors may recommend that you start the divorce proceedings if there are concerns about starting the application quickly. For example, because of court jurisdiction issues or worries that your estranged spouse is selling off or hiding assets or because a history of domestic violence makes you feel uncomfortable starting divorce proceedings together.

Whether you apply jointly or individually, the divorce process is similar. Our divorce solicitors generally prefer you to either make the application jointly with your spouse or to make the application by yourself. That is to ensure you have some control over getting your divorce in a timescale that is acceptable to you.

The paperwork needed to file for divorce 

The paperwork you need to file for divorce is very straightforward. All you need is:

  • Your original marriage certificate
  • Your divorce application – this needs to be completed correctly
  • The divorce court fee

Although you don’t need a lot of paperwork to file for divorce, family law solicitors say that it is best to take legal advice before doing so to make sure that divorce is the right option for you and to understand the likely financial settlement options and childcare arrangements and the best timing for you to start the court proceedings.

At Evolve Family Law we offer fixed fee divorce services for most divorce applications.

Steps to get your no-fault divorce

There are 4 steps in the no-fault divorce process:

  1. You apply for a divorce – either a joint application or an individual application by one of you
  2. There is a court-imposed wait of 20 weeks and the applicant then confirms they want a divorce
  3. The Court makes a Conditional Order of divorce (this used to be called decree nisi of divorce)
  4. After waiting 6 weeks, the applicant can apply for the Final Order of divorce (this used to be called the decree absolute of divorce)

As there are court-imposed delays (the 20-week and 6-week delays built into the court timetable) a no-fault divorce takes about 6 months from filing your divorce application to getting your Final Order. Sometimes it takes a bit longer if your holidays or other things intervene. You will not need to go to a court hearing to get your divorce.

You might also be interested in

Filing for divorce and child custody and contact

In no-fault divorce proceedings, the court will not make an automatic child arrangement order to record the residence and contact arrangements for your children after your divorce. If you cannot reach an agreement then either of you can apply to court for a child arrangement order but this is a separate court application. Your divorce will not be delayed if you can’t reach an agreement over what parenting arrangements are in your child’s best interests.

Filing for divorce and financial settlements

In no-fault divorce proceedings, the court will not make a financial settlement order unless one of you either asks the court to decide on the financial settlement by making a formal application or you both file an agreed application for the court to approve a financial court order negotiated by your divorce solicitor/s.

Filing for divorce using the Evolve Family Law One Lawyer Divorce Service

If your separation is relatively amicable our One Lawyer Amicable Divorce Service may help you both file for divorce, obtain an agreed financial consent order and draw up a parenting plan. The service is provided by specially trained family lawyers who comply with the guidance from Resolution (an organisation for family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve divorce and family issues in a non-confrontational manner).

Using this specialist service, one divorce lawyer advises you and your former partner and prepares all necessary legal documents on behalf of you both in your divorce and financial settlement.

This service isn’t right for everyone so our expert family lawyers will talk to you to see if the service would meet your expectations and needs. For example, the process won’t be right for you if your husband or wife isn’t open to having honest or realistic discussions or is hiding assets from you so they can’t form part of your divorce financial settlement. If the service isn’t right for you then we can help you negotiate your financial settlement or child care arrangements with your spouse and their family law solicitor.

For expert advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.