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.
The following guide has been designed to walk you through the options surrounding divorce and supply information about each stage of the divorce 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?
If your relationship has permanently broken down and you feel there is no other option but to get a divorce, 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 is that your marriage is legally recognised in the UK. If this is not the case then divorce 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 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.
However, you will still be married to each other and may wish to draw up a new will, clearly stating your wishes in light of your separation.
Annulling a marriage effectively creates a situation in which the marriage legally never existed.
A marriage can be annulled if it is found not to be legally valid. Grounds for annulment include the following:
- either partner was already married
- consent was not properly given
- the marriage was agreed under false pretences
- marriage prohibited by law, such as in the case of incest
- either spouse lacked mental capacity
- marriage was not consummated
- either person is under 16 years of age
Ground for divorce
When applying for a divorce, you will need to state that your marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’ due to one of five reasons.
These reasons are as follows:
- unreasonable behaviour
- two years of separation and both parties consent
- five years of separation (consent not necessary)
It is advisable that both partners agree on the wording of the divorce beforehand or face lengthy and potentially costly negotiations.
A divorce 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 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.
Divorce petition form
The first form that must be filled out is the divorce petition form. The court will then issue the papers to the spouse who did not send off the initial divorce petition. It is important that your petition is correctly drafted; if not, you could face having to amend the divorce petition later on, which can incur a court fee and delay.
Acknowledgement of service form
The partner of the petitioner (the person who applies for the divorce) will be required to send back an acknowledgement of service form within 7 days of receiving the court documents. This form allows the spouse to either contest or accept the grounds for divorce. Legal advice should be obtained.
Decree nisi application
This form must include a supporting statement. The decree nisi confirms that the court is satisfied that the petitioner is entitled to a divorce. If one spouse does not agree to the divorce, the court will decide whether or not the decree nisi should be granted.
Decree absolute application
This is the final document you will need. Once the decree absolute has been processed, the marriage is officially ended. The petitioner can apply for a decree absolute from 6 weeks and a day after the decree nisi has been pronounced.
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||Description||Cost|
The initial application that begins the divorce proceedings.
If you have not managed to come to an agreement about finances, you can apply to let the courts decide.
This document makes any financial decisions you have agreed on legally binding.
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 packages
Graysons Solicitors offers divorce 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||
(excluding court fees)
Divorce standard package (fixed fee*)
For petitioner: £450 plus VAT
Respondent £320 plus VAT
Divorce premium package (hourly rate package – not fixed fee)
Standard hourly rates of between £100 to £220 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 for a free of charge meeting in which we can discuss your case – or give us a call on 0114 358 9009.