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I’m thinking of getting a divorce. How long will it take?

Getting a divorce can take varying amounts of time, depending on its level of complexity.

The time it takes depends mostly on how easily you and your spouse can reach an agreement on various issues and how busy the court systems are. Generally, we say that a divorce takes around four to six months but can take much longer.

A divorce does not usually take place until all the finances have been agreed. This is where the arguments can stretch out for a significant amount of time, lengthening the process, if you both cannot reach an agreement. This is especially the case if either or both individuals have a significant amount of wealth and assets.

Once the respondent has been served with the petition (this can be done by process servers if they refuse) then the decree nisi can be applied for. If the grounds of the petition are accepted the decree nisi will then be pronounced in court. The court will then make an order in relation to finances and once this is agreed the decree absolute will be applied for. It is when the decree absolute is finalised that the divorce takes place. The decree absolute has to be applied for at least 6 weeks and 1 day after the decree nisi is pronounced but this can take much longer if there is a complex financial settlement, for example if you are a high net worth individual with pension funds and investments spread out across the world.

It is possible to use a process called arbitration to settle the financial claims of your divorce. Arbitration essentially means that you are usually able to complete the process much quicker than if you used the public court system and, unlike public courts, arbitration can completely exclude the public and the media if you want to keep your case totally private.

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