No-one can predict what might happen in a relationship. Sometimes a series of events may occur that leave a couple with little option but to contemplate officially ending their marriage/civil partnership.
The following guide has been designed to walk you through the options surrounding divorce/dissolution and supply information about each stage of the divorce/dissolution proceedings.
This advice is for those seeking a divorce in England or Wales. Other parts of the United Kingdom may have different laws relating to divorce.
When can I get a divorce/dissolution?
If your relationship has permanently broken down and you feel there is no other option but to get a divorce/dissolution, you may start proceedings only if you have been married a full year. Before this time, the courts will not consider your request.
Another stipulation for becoming officially divorced/civil partnership dissolved is that your marriage/civil partnership is legally recognised in the UK. If this is not the case then divorce/dissolution proceedings may not be possible, or necessary.
For those couples with irreconcilable differences who wish to make a formal declaration of separation before the first year of marriage/civil partnership is over, you have the following options:
The courts can grant a judicial separation declaring that the couple is legally separated, this is the alternative to being formally divorced/civil partnership dissolved.
However, you will still be married to each other/in a civil partnership and may wish to draw up a new will, clearly stating your wishes in light of your separation.
Annulling a marriage/civil partnership effectively creates a situation in which the marriage/civil partnership legally never existed or doesn’t exist any longer.
A marriage/civil partnership can be annulled if it is found not to be legally valid (void) or if the marriage/civil partnership is defective (voidable).
Grounds for annulment include the following:
- either partner was already married/in a civil partnership
- consent was not properly given
- the marriage/civil partnership was agreed under false pretences
- marriage/civil partnership prohibited by law, such as in the case of incest
- either spouse/civil partner lacked mental capacity
- marriage/civil partnership between opposing sex couple was not consummated
- either person is under 16 years of age
Ground for divorce/dissolution
When applying for a divorce/dissolution, either or both of you will need to state that your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’
A divorce/dissolution does not have to be combative — there are ways in which both partners can come to an agreement about what happens throughout the divorce. When this is the case, many people still prefer to use the services of an experienced family solicitor for advice on form-filling and other general processes involved.
Find out more about grounds for divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership on our dedicated page.
If you have decided to separate but do not wish to go through the courts to resolve your case, you have the option of using ‘mediation’ in order to settle issues surrounding things such as finances, property and child custody.
Mediators are professionals with specific training in helping couples work out what to do when they split up. However, it is useful to take advice from a solicitor before going into mediation and during the mediation process.
The process will begin with an introductory meeting known as a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).
If you do decide to go through the courts to settle your differences, you will usually have to show that you have attempted some form of mediation before things can progress (unless you fall into one of the exemptions, such as in cases of domestic violence or if there is risk of harm to a child’s safety).
The following information relates to the roles and responsibilities of a mediator:
- Impartial advice. Mediators will not take sides. They are there to help you find the best solution with as little conflict as possible.
- You will be supplied with legal information such as the powers of the court; however, they cannot give you legal advice.
- Memorandum of understanding. At the end of the process, the mediator will draw up a memorandum of understanding which will contain the points on which you have agreed. This can then be taken to a solicitor, who will use it to progress your settlement.
Find out more about mediation and other dispute resolution options here.
Once you have decided on the reason for divorce, the court papers need to be completed.
You can apply for a divorce/dissolution on your own or jointly with your partner. Generally, the application will be filed on-line via the HMCTS portal. In some cases, a paper application will be needed. You will need to pay the application fee of £593 at this stage.
The court will then issue the papers to the respondent, or if a joint application is made, they will be issued to applicant one first and then to applicant two. See more in our guide to the divorce/dissolution process. spouse who did not send off the initial divorce application. It is important that your application is correctly drafted; if not, you could face having to amend it later on, which can incur a court fee and delay.
Acknowledgement of service form
The respondent in a sole application, or both the applicants in a joint application, will receive an acknowledgement of service to complete. That document must be completed and returned within 14 days of receipt (previously 7 days.)
Conditional order (formerly decree nice) application
20 weeks after the divorce/dissolution is made, the sole applicant, or one or both of the joint applicants must apply for the conditional order. If the application was made jointly and one of the applicants is not cooperating, the other applicant can apply for the conditional order but must provide 14 days notice to the other party and provide a copy of the conditional order.
Final order (formerly decree absolute) application
six weeks after the conditional order has been granted, the sole applicant, or one or both of the joint applicants must apply for the conditional order. If the application was made jointly and one of the applicants is not cooperating, the other applicant can apply for the conditional order but must provide 14 days notice to the other party.
If the sole applicant does not apply for the final order six weeks after the conditional order, the respondent can apply after three months.
For more information about the processes and forms involved, go to our Divorce Procedure page.
There are certain set court fees that are charged for getting a divorce in England and Wales.
The table below outlines some of the standard costs involved (these charges are periodically reviewed by the court and subject to change):
|Stage of divorce/dissolution||Description||Court Fee Cost|
|Applying for a divorce||The initial application that begins the divorce proceedings.||£593|
|Financial order||If you have not managed to come to an agreement about finances, you can apply to let the courts decide.||£275|
|Consent order||This document makes any financial decisions you have agreed on legally binding.||£53|
Help with fees
For those on certain benefits or with an income below a set level, there is help available to pay for the court fees.
Graysons divorce/dissolution packages
Graysons Solicitors offers divorce/dissolution packages designed to take some of the stress out of this difficult time. These costs are in addition to any subsequent work in respect of children, finances or negotiation around costs.
|Type of package||Benefits||Average Cost(excluding court fees)|
|Divorce standard package (fixed fee*)||
For petitioner: £500 plus VAT
Respondent £350 plus VAT
|Divorce premium package (hourly rate package – not fixed fee)||
||Standard hourly rates of between £126 to £255 plus VAT|
If fixed fees are not appropriate to your case, we can discuss with you the options available and likely cost estimates.
Contact us now to arrange a fixed-fee first consultation in which we can discuss your case – or give us a call on 0114 272 9184.