Guide to Divorce Procedure
The decision to divorce, or to dissolve your civil partnership, is a major life choice, and it is not one you will take without thinking very carefully. But, once you have made that choice, you will find that the legal process is quite simple, it does not question your choice, or ask you to justify it.
In April 2022 divorce law and the procedure you need to follow to get divorced were simplified a great deal. The divorce courts no longer make any attempt whatever to establish the reasons for the breakdown of your marriage, or to apportion responsibility for it. You simply say that in your honest opinion your marriage has irretrievably broken and you make your divorce application online using the gov.uk website. There are various waiting times as you go through the process, doubtless intended to make sure that you are certain of your decision. Overall it will probably take about eight or nine months.
If you and your husband or wife both feel your marriage has broken, down you have the choice to make a joint application for a divorce. Otherwise one of you can apply, and the other is not given the option of refusing to divorce, even if that s what they would prefer.
Getting divorced, or dissolving a civil partnership, is a legal process which involves a court. In the end a judge somewhere in the country will certify your divorce and issue your divorce orders. But you do not actually need to go to court, it is completed online at the gov.uk website. Ordinarily it takes about eight or nine months from the start of that process, to reach the point where HMCTS (His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service) is ready to send you your ‘final divorce order’ (previously known as a ‘decree absolute’) which is the document confirming that you are no longer married. It is usually sent out as a PDF file rather than as a paper document.
How to get a divorce.
I suggest you go directly to the gov.uk website, and search for ‘get a divorce’ using the search engine in the top right hand corner. Or try this link:- GOV.UK - Divorce Step by Step
Don’t Google because that will bring up lots of the other websites which offer to help you with a divorce, for a fee. You don’t need that, the government website takes you through the process step by step with clear and helpful guidance – it is practically impossible to get it wrong.
You can apply online or by post, but online seems to be the easier option. Basically, you fill in a form online with straight forward details such as the date of your marriage and your husband/wife’s address. You also must upload a good quality scan of your marriage certificate and pay the court fee. The old days when you had to say that your husband or wife had committed adultery or behaved unreasonably, or that you had lived apart for two years, have gone. The only trap for the unwary is that it is sensible to tick the boxes which say you would like to apply to the court for financial orders, whether you actually intend to or not. But if you get that wrong you can usually put it right later.
The system then generates a letter which gets posted to your husband or wife inviting them to log on and read the forms, then you can go ahead. It tells you what to do in some slightly unusual circumstances such as if you don’t know where your husband/wife is or if they don’t respond to the letter. And then the website takes you through the process from there. You have to wait for 6 months for your ‘conditional decree’ (previously ‘decree nisi’) and then another 6 weeks to apply for your final order (previously ‘decree absolute’) but it is sensible to delay applying for that until financial orders have been properly dealt with.
How much does it cost to get divorced?
HMCTS charge a fee, currently £593, when you apply for a divorce. If you ask a solicitor to handle your divorce application for you, they will charge you a separate fee for their services.
Before April 2022 we used to charge people around £500+VAT to process a divorce which I think was money well spent because it was quite tricky. Now I advise most people do their own divorce and contact me to talk about the financial issues. But it is a matter of your own free choice; I am happy to apply for your divorce for you if you would like me to, please contact me and we can discuss what it will cost.
But note that this is separate from the project of sorting out the other issues which follow from getting divorced, notably reaching an agreement about your finances, and getting that documented appropriately.