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Want a bit more info on how the divorce process works? Check out our handy Guide to Getting a Divorce below.
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Whether you've been thinking about getting divorced or your partner asked for one, it's important you know how it works and the steps you'll need to take.
That's why we've put together a flowchart, to help you see what steps you'll need to take. Take a look and then read on for more information on the steps you'll need to take.
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Grounds for a divorce
You’ll generally need to have been married for at least a year before you can start the divorce process. The person who files for divorce (you can’t do this together) must give one of the following five grounds for the divorce:
- Unreasonable behaviour (your spouse behaved so badly you can no longer live with them – e.g. they subjected you to physical or verbal abuse or were an alcoholic or drug addict).
- Desertion (your spouse left without your agreement, for no good reason, in order to end your relationship for more than two out of the last two and a half years).
- You’ve been separated 2 years or more and your spouse consents to the divorce.
- You’ve been separated for 5 years or more regardless of whether your spouse consents.
Unreasonable behaviour is the most common reason given for divorce as it covers a multitude of reasons why the relationship may have broken down.
The divorce process
Most people think a divorce will deal with (1) ending the marriage, (2) coming to a financial settlement and (3) determining who takes care of the children. However, these are actually three separate processes that usually take place around the same time:
- Ending the marriage/civil partnership - this process begins once the dissolution or divorce petition form is filed with the court. Once the court is satisfied the grounds for divorce are met, it will issue a decree nisi or conditional order. After 6 weeks you’ll usually be able to apply for a decree absolute or final order to end the marriage.
- Financial settlement - these proceedings can only be started once an application for divorce has been made to the court. The final financial order cannot be made until the decree nisi or conditional order is made and the order will generally only take effect once the decree absolute or final order to grant the divorce is made.
- Making arrangements for children - these proceedings can be started at any time before or during the divorce process.
Will you need to go to court?
Most divorcing couples never actually end up going to court. This is generally only necessary if either side contests any part of the application (e.g. the financial split or arrangements for the children).
If you partner does contest the divorce, especially arrangement relating to children and/or finances, you may well need to go to court. If this happens, we'd strongly recommend getting a divorce solicitor involved as the procedures can be complex.
What if you can’t agree?
If you aren’t able to reach an agreement between yourselves, the courts will generally require you to have at least considered mediation before the court will hear your case. This takes the form of a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), where you'll learn how mediation works. In some cases a MIAM may not be needed (e.g. if domestic violence was involved).
A mediator is an independent individual who is trained to help you and your ex-partner agree on any contentious issues without the need for going to court. A mediator doesn’t take sides, they are simply there to help you try and come to an agreement without the need for an expensive and lengthy court case.
If you tried mediation and it didn't work, you'll need to go to court. You'll almost always need divorce solicitor to advise and represent you if this happens.
What our users say
How long does it take to get a divorce?
Provided the process isn’t contentious, it will generally take around 4-6 months to obtain the divorce. This doesn't take into account children or financial aspects though.
If children and/or finances are contested though, the process can take a lot longer (sometimes several years). If the process does become contentious you'll generally need to instruct a barrister and solicitor to act for you, which can rapidly become very expensive and take time, so it's usually worth avoiding going to court where possible.
What you need to consider before starting the divorce process:
- Who will ask for the divorce and on what ground(s)?
- During and after the process, who will live in any jointly owned property and where will the other person stay?
- How will you divide your assets?
- Who will look after any children and what arrangements will be made for their financial provision?
Do you need to hire a divorce lawyer?
Whilst it isn’t always necessary to instruct a solicitor for the entirety of the process, it’s definitely worth taking some advice at the start of the process. This is especially true if you've got children and/or finances to agree on and/or you think your partner might contest some or all of the divorce.
A good family lawyer can mean the difference between a long, combative and costly process and fixing things simply, quickly and without an expensive fight.
Help & support
There's tonnes of fantastic organisations, charities and resources available to help support you through a difficult divorce, here's just a few:
Here's just a few of our excellent divorce lawyers:
Kate specialises in family law and has worked at two top tier family firms. She advises clients in relation to complex financial disputes, international cases, children law matters, prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements, separation agreements and asset protection.
Rachel advises clients in a variety of matters, including divorce, financial proceedings and private children matters. She also has experience assisting clients with Inheritance Act claims.
Dominic advises clients on a wide range of issues arising from divorce and relationship breakdown. Dominic specialises in resolving financial matters arising from divorce, negotiating nuptial agreements and resolving issues between unmarried couples.