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How to Get a Divorce

To get a divorce means to legally dissolve a marriage, where the parties involved must prove to the Court how the marriage has broken down with no chance of reconciliation.

Couple completing paperwork to get a divorce

Are You Eligible for Divorce?

If you have been married for one year and your marriage is legally recognised in the UK (including same-sex marriage), you can get a divorce. You additionally must reside in a permanent home in the UK.

When applying for divorce, you should be able to demonstrate how your relationship has irreversibly broken down using the five grounds for divorce. You must choose at least one (or more) reason:

1)     Adultery
When your husband or wife has sexual intercourse with someone else

2)     Unreasonable behaviour
If your husband or wife engages in behaviour which makes it unfeasible to live with them

3)     Desertion
Your husband or wife leaves you without reason or agreement

4)     2-Year Separation
If you have been separated for two years or more and this is agreed in writing

5)     5-Year Separation
If you have been separated for five years plus – your husband or wife does not need to agree to this

How to Get a Divorce

Once you have checked you can get a divorce, you can begin the proceedings. The divorce process usually lasts between four to six months.

If you can both agree on the reason why you want to end the marriage, it will be quicker and will cost less. You can have a fixed fee divorce depending on your circumstances if you have agreed your family and financial arrangements but would like a solicitor to act on your behalf in court.

However, divorce proceedings can take as long as a year to complete if you cannot amicably settle on a reason why. When you are ready to begin, you must fill in a divorce petition form and pay a £550 fee. You will need your marriage certificate to fill in the form.

Once you’ve sent the forms to your nearest divorce centre and paid the fee, your husband or wife will receive a copy of the divorce petition form. They can either agree or disagree.

How to Get a Divorce if Your Husband or Wife Won’t Agree

If your husband or wife agrees to get a divorce, proceedings can go ahead. But if they disagree, you must seek legal advice as the divorce will likely go to court. This is known as ‘defending’ the divorce. Your husband or wife must provide an answer as to why they disagree and normally need to pay a further £245 fee.

If you receive a divorce petition, you can start your own in response but will need to pay the £550 fee.

If the divorce is defended or both parties begin their own divorce petition, the proceedings will go to court.

Getting a Divorce in Court

If divorce proceedings go to court, both parties should attend a hearing to decide on a suitable arrangement. It’s strongly recommended you seek legal advice to help you reach an agreement at a court hearing.

There are several reasons why a divorce may require a court hearing:

1)     You cannot decide which of the five grounds for divorce applies to you

2)     There are financial issues to resolve, such as if you wish to claim the costs of divorce against your husband or wife

3)     You do not accept the allegations against you in the divorce petition

It’s important to have a solicitor for a divorce hearing because they are the best person to represent you in court. They can explain what evidence you need to provide during the proceedings. A solicitor will also speak to your husband or wife and their solicitor on your behalf. Look for a solicitor who specialises in divorce to make sure you receive the best results.

When you meet with your solicitor for the initial consultation, ask how long proceedings will take. Additionally, find out when they will update you and any evidence you may need for a court hearing.

How to Get a Divorce if Children or Finances Are Involved

If children or finances are involved, getting a divorce can be more complicated. Again, it’s strongly advised you use a solicitor to guide you through the process and help you reach an agreement which works for you, your partner and any children you may have.

If you have children, you need to make child arrangements with your partner. These arrangements involve where the child will live, when each party will spend time with them and child maintenance.

If you and your husband cannot come to a fair agreement, you may need to attend a court hearing. Here, a family law solicitor can make your agreement legally binding.

Your solicitor can also assist with financial provision. If you and your partner cannot agree how to divide assets such as money (including savings), investments and property, you can ask for a financial order. A financial order may grant you one lump sum, regular maintenance payments, property or a share of your partner’s pension.

Finalising a Divorce

If your husband or wife does not defend the divorce petition, you can apply for a ‘decree nisi.’ This is a provisional document which says the Court has no issue with your divorce.

After six weeks and one day, you can then apply for the ‘decree absolute,’ a legal document which terminates your marriage. The Court will check you have applied for this in the correct time frame and have no other reason to not grant the divorce. Your solicitor can assist with this process.

You must have applied for financial provision and child arrangements before requesting the decree absolute.

If your marriage is having problems and you’re looking for a divorce solicitor, contact Major Family Law for specialist advice and expert guidance. We can also offer help with separation agreements if you aren’t ready to begin divorce proceedings.