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Getting a Divorce: What you need to know – Guide

Getting a divorce or wanting to learn more about how to get a divorce, this can be a difficult time for all those involved. Understanding what to expect when you’re getting a divorce, can help to put your mind at rest and enable you to begin to plan for the future.

Getting a divorce doesn’t have to end up in court.  Many people start their divorce journey by wanting to learn more about how to get a divorce?

Some people worry that getting a divorce means costly court battles that drag on for months, maybe even years. In fact, defended divorces – where one person contests the divorce – are very rare. For most people, the divorce process is simply a matter of completing paperwork – and going to court is not necessary.

It is more likely that those getting a divorce may end up in court for other reasons, such as disputes regarding how their assets will be split. Obtaining independent legal advice from a specialist divorce solicitor when you’re getting a divorce, can help to give you the knowledge, understanding and expertise necessary, to ensure that the discussions and negotiations regarding your financial settlement get off to a good start.


Getting a divorce does not take very long

Contrary to common belief, the divorce process itself can be completed in as little as a few months. What often takes the time is coming to an agreement about how the finances will be split.

Getting a divorce in haste can have serious implications. If you rush to legally end your marriage with a decree absolute, without sorting out the financial matters, you could find yourself with problems further down the line.


You need to deal with financial matters when you’re getting a divorce

Financial matters are dealt with separately to the divorce process. However, the financial side of things usually runs alongside the divorce process. Getting a divorce without dealing with financial matters, means that the financial ties between the you and your spouse are not severed. As a result, one of you could make a financial claim against the other in the future.


Getting a divorce: do I need a solicitor?

There is no legal obligation to have a solicitor to help you deal with getting a divorce. However, having an experienced solicitor on hand to provide you with advice, can help to prevent unnecessary arguments with your spouse, which could end up ultimately disrupting the process and you having to ask a judge to decide your financial settlement instead. Not only can going to court be costly and time consuming, it can be an extremely difficult process emotionally, causing more tension between you and your spouse (especially problematic if there are children involved).

A good divorce solicitor can also advise you about, and support you through, different types of dispute resolution, such as collaborative law or mediation, if they believe they would help you to come to an agreement and avoid court.

Getting a divorce can be tough. As well as having to deal with the emotional fallout of your marriage breaking down, you’ll also have to manage the financial implications of living apart from your spouse, as well as the divorce process itself.

Understanding the divorce process and the options that are available to you to help you agree a financial settlement with your spouse, can make getting a divorce seem that little bit less daunting.

getting a divorce  How to get a divorce


Getting a divorce: what should I expect?

In order to be able to divorce in England and Wales, you will need to have been married for more than one year.

When getting a divorce, you will need to prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You will need to choose your ‘ground’ or ‘reason’ for divorce:

• Unreasonable behaviour
• Adultery
• Desertion
• 2 years of separation (you will need consent from your spouse)
• 5 years of separation (no consent necessary)


Getting a divorce: the petition

To officially begin the divorce process, either you or your spouse will need to complete a divorce petition and file it with the family court.

When getting a divorce, the person who files the petition will be known as the petitioner. The other party is known as the respondent.

The respondent will then be sent an acknowledgement of service form, together with the divorce application. They will then need to respond to the divorce application. It is at this point that they must say if they agree with getting a divorce or whether they intend to defend it. Defended divorces are relatively rare.


Getting a divorce: the decree nisi

If the respondent agrees with getting a divorce, the petitioner can then apply for the decree nisi.

If the respondent has decided getting a divorce is not what they want, they may choose to defend the divorce. They should complete an ‘answer to divorce’ form within 28 days of receiving the application, explaining the reasons for their decision. If they do not submit the form, the petitioner can apply for the decree nisi.

If the respondent submits the form, it may be necessary to go to court.


Getting a divorce: the decree absolute

The decree absolute can be applied for 6 weeks and 1 day after the decree nisi has been pronounced in court. When you receive your decree absolute, you are officially divorced.


Getting a divorce: will I need to go to court?

If you and your spouse can reach an agreement about child arrangements and how to split your finances, you can normally avoid going to court when getting a divorce.

However, if your spouse disagrees with the divorce, or you cannot reach an agreement, you may have to go to court.


Contemplating what to consider before getting a divorce, there’s no denying it – divorce is one of the most stressful and emotional things many of us will ever have to endure.

Before exploring what to consider before getting a divorce, we need to understand, the marriage that we once stood up in front of all of our friends and family and promised would last a lifetime, is now over. Feelings of failure, anger, frustration, resentment and sadness, are all par for the course. Understanding what the divorce process entails and what to expect, can help you to take control and enable you to make plans for your future.


Is it really over?

It’s normal to have doubts. Some people choose to speak to our expert divorce and family law solicitors, about the implications of a possible divorce from their spouse, before they have even made up their mind that this is what they really want. Others leave it until they are absolutely sure that the relationship has come to an end.

There is no right or wrong. In England and Wales, it makes no difference to the financial settlement who is the petitioner (the person who files for divorce) and who is the respondent . At what point you talk to a solicitor (or if you ever do) is completely up to you. However, obtaining legal advice about your personal circumstances can help to put your mind at rest.

If you are not sure if your marriage is over, speaking to a counsellor, together or separately, can help some people to reach a decision.

On the legal side of things, you need to be aware that in order to divorce in England and Wales, you must have been married for at least a year.


How long will my divorce take?

If you and your spouse both agree to the divorce (including the reasons you are going to cite for divorce) and what is going to happen to your children and any assets, the process can only take a few months.

However, if you (or your spouse) are a high net worth individual with international assets and investments, or if you do not agree what should happen to your assets or any children, for example, the process could take much longer.


Child arrangements upon divorce

The welfare of any children is always the top priority.

If you and your spouse are unable to agree where your children will live, or how often contact with the other spouse will take place and on what terms, there various methods available to help you, such as mediation or collaborative law.

If no agreement can be reached, you can ask a judge to decide this for you.


Your financial settlement

If you are unable to reach an agreement regarding how your assets will be split upon divorce and a judge is asked to decide your financial settlement, the starting point will normally be a 50/50 split of your matrimonial assets (what you have built up during the marriage). However, the actual financial settlement can vary greatly, due to your own personal circumstances, such as your incomes and assets and how much each of you need.


What if my spouse contests the divorce?

This is extremely rare. However, we usually advise our clients to agree the grounds for divorce with their spouse before submitting these to a court, as this can help to reduce unnecessary delays or costs.

If you’re researching how to get a divorce, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explain the process of how to get a divorce from start to finish, so you’ll know what to expect every step of the way.


How to get a divorce step 1: who can get a divorce?

Before going into more detail about how to get a divorce, it’s important to make sure that you are able to get a divorce.

In order to get divorced in England and Wales you must:

• have been married for more than 1 year and
• have your permanent home in the UK (or the UK is your spouse’s permanent home) or be domiciled in the UK (seek advice from a solicitor if you are in any doubt)


How to get a divorce step 2: grounds for divorce

In order to file for divorce, you must prove that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, with one of five grounds for divorce.

The grounds for divorce are:

• Unreasonable behaviour
• Adultery
• Desertion
• Separation for 2 years (agreement from the other party necessary)
• Separation for at least 5 years (no consent necessary)

A divorce solicitor will be able to explain which grounds for divorce are most appropriate in your circumstances, during your initial ‘how to get a divorce’ appointment.


How to get a divorce step 3: file for divorce

In order to get the divorce process officially started, one party must file for divorce. This involves submitting a divorce petition to the courts. Your solicitor can help you with this.


How to get a divorce step 4: the decree nisi

Once the court has checked all of your paperwork and your spouse has given their agreement to the divorce petition, you can get your decree nisi.


How to get a divorce step 5: the decree absolute

The decree absolute legally ends your marriage. You must wait for at least six weeks after your decree nisi is pronounced before you can apply for the decree absolute.

It is important to note that while this article looks at how to get a divorce, the financial settlement negotiations are a separate process which usually run alongside the divorce process.


Getting a divorce? Get in touch for your free consultation

If you’re considering getting a divorce or have already started the process but would like some expert advice, get in touch to book your complimentary consultation with one of our specialist divorce solicitors.

This ‘how to get a divorce’ article looks at the main milestones you will encounter during the divorce process. It is highly advisable to seek advice from a specialist solicitor, such as Austin Kemp, as early on in the divorce process as possible, so you understand the different ‘steps’ in more detail. Getting this expert advice on how to get a divorce early on, could also make a real difference to the outcome of your financial settlement.

Get in touch today to book an appointment to discuss how to get a divorce in detail, with one of our experienced divorce solicitors.


Other articles that may be of interest to you?

How long does a divorce take?

What is the divorce process?

When is decree absolute granted in a divorce?

Decree Nisi – What does this mean in a divorce?

What are the first steps to divorce?


Thinking about getting a divorce?

Our expert family law solicitors can help you with a range of legal issues relating to divorce, including:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for advice on your divorce

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email

Our expert family law solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in:

Leeds Office: St Andrew House, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 5JW

Sheffield Office: Pinfold Street, The Balance, Sheffield, S1 2GU

Manchester Office: King Street, Manchester, M2 4PD

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

London Office: 01 Nothumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5BW

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

Please contact us for more details.

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08th December 2020

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