How long does a divorce take?
This is a difficult question to answer. It often depends on how quickly the Courts are dealing with divorce applications, as it can sometimes take longer when the Courts receive a large number of applications. Roughly, a divorce – from start to finish – takes around 6 months. If, however, it takes you and your spouse longer to agree financial matters, then it can take longer. A good divorce solicitor will advise that it is best not to finalise the divorce until the finances are agreed and a Consent Order or final determination from the Court has been received.
How long it will take to resolve the financial side of a divorce will vary greatly from couple to couple. For example, if there are shares in a business, multiple properties or large pensions to consider then it may take longer to reach an agreement versus a marriage that has relatively straight-forward assets (where only the family home needs to be dealt with) as it may be that expert reports are required in order to fully understand more complex matrimonial finances.
Below is a brief timeline to the divorce process:
- Step 1: the divorce petition is completed and sent to the court;
- Step 2: the Respondent confirms whether or not they agree to a divorce by completing the Acknowledgement of Service form;
- Step 3: once the Respondent has returned the Acknowledgement of Service form to the court, the Petitioner can apply for Decree Nisi;
- Step 4: the middle stage of the divorce, Decree Nisi, is pronounced;
- Step 5: Decree Absolute is pronounced, bringing the marriage to an end.
How much does a divorce cost?
The average costs associated with uncontested divorce proceedings generally fall within 2 categories:
- Solicitors and professional costs – these will vary depending on the specialist knowledge and expertise of the family divorce lawyer, geographical location and level of experience. The petitioner in the divorce proceedings should budget in the region of £500 – £750 plus VAT. If you are the respondent in the proceedings, the fees you incur are likely to be much lower – around £200 – £400 plus VAT.
- Disbursements – these are expenses incurred by a solicitor whilst completing work on behalf of a client. In relation to divorce proceedings, for most parties this will only be the divorce application fee charged by the Court of £550. Other disbursements that may apply might include obtaining a replacement marriage certificate or organising a translation of the marriage certificate if the ceremony took place abroad.
How to get a divorce?
The process of getting a divorce – from completing the divorce petition to when to apply for Decree Absolute – can be confusing. By seeking advice from family divorce solicitors, we can help guide you through it. The infographic opposite sets out the different stages that you will go through and what you need to tell the Court in order for a divorce to be granted.
Divorce Financial Settlements
Financial matters are dealt with independently to the actual divorce. It is possible, therefore, to get divorced without formally sorting out your finances by way of a Consent Order. However, this is not advisable as it may leave you open to financial claims by your ex-partner later down the line, especially if their circumstances should change. A family law solicitor can advise you on what a fair and reasonable financial settlement would be and assist with putting this in place before your Decree Absolute is pronounced, thereby making sure you are protected and not left vulnerable.
What are my rights in a divorce?
There is no law that states that one party of a divorce has more rights than the other. However, statute does set down a number of factors that the court needs to consider, as set out in Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. The aim is to achieve fairness. Fairness is obviously a different concept in every case as it is dependent upon the parties’ circumstances.
What do lawyers do in a divorce?
At such a difficult time, a family law solicitor or lawyer can guide you through the whole divorce process, making it as stress-free as possible. A solicitor or family lawyer can help you decide on which of the 5 facts (or reasons) you want to rely on when making your application to the Court for a divorce. They can also communicate with your ex-partner or their solicitors so that you don’t have to.
In addition, they can:
- Listen to you and discuss what your options are
- Let you know what your rights are and where you stand
- Explain what rights your ex-partner has
- Give you reliable and accredited legal advice about your home and financial matters
A family solicitor can also negotiate on your behalf in relation to financial matters and/or any associated child arrangements. They can also make any necessary applications to the Court, for example for interim maintenance. If you have agreed all the financial arrangements, then it is still advisable to get a solicitor to prepare any financial orders for the Court to approve.
There is a common misconception that there are several ‘grounds for divorce’ and this phrase is often used when someone describes the reason for a divorce petition being issued, for example, adultery or unreasonable behaviour. However, it is important to note that there is only one ground for divorce, and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. In order to prove that this has happened, there are 5 reasons (or facts) that you can choose from to evidence this which are detailed below
- Adultery – of the other spouse
- Unreasonable Behaviour – of the other spouse
- 2 years separation, with the consent of your spouse
- 5 years separation, without the consent of your spouse
More information on the grounds for divorce can be found here
In order to apply for a divorce, you must complete a divorce petition. This can either be done through a solicitor (who will make a charge for completing the paperwork), via the online portal or by posting the divorce petition (otherwise known as a Form D8, which you can obtain online) to your closest Divorce Centre. There is a court fee for applying for a divorce, which is currently £550.
In the petition you will need to confirm what fact (or reason) you are relying on and provide your personal details, along with those of your spouse. The court will require a your original marriage certificate – if you are submitting your petition by post, you will need to send your original marriage certificate with the petition and you will not get it back. If you are applying online, you will need to upload a colour copy of your marriage certificate. If you do not have your marriage certificate, then you can apply for a certified copy online for a small fee.
The petition will also ask whether you want to ask your spouse to contribute towards your divorce costs. It is usual for divorce costs to be split evenly between the parties. Once you have sent off the divorce petition, the court will consider the divorce paperwork. Providing everything is in order, a copy of the document will be posted to your spouse by the court.
When the court sends you a copy of the divorce petition, it will also send an Acknowledgement of Service form. This is the form that you need to complete, as the Respondent, in order to reply to the divorce petition. In it you will be asked if you agree to the divorce continuing, if you agree to any claim for costs against you that has been made by the Petitioner. In the case of a petition that is based on unreasonable behaviour, you will also be asked if you are in agreement with the examples of behaviour that have been given. Once completed, the Acknowledgement of Service must be sent back to the court, who will then provide a copy to the Petitioner.
If you are unsure about any aspect of the Acknowledgement of Service then it is best to seek legal advice before returning it to the court in order to avoid any unnecessary delays further down the line.
Technically, you do not need to get a divorce. However, by not divorcing or sorting out the matrimonial finances you are leaving yourself open to future claims from your ex-spouse as the length of marriage continues to grow – and if for example something catastrophic happens to your former spouse then their claims against you may increase significantly. Nor will you be able to remarry, should you wish.
Adultery means sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex. Other forms of intimacy other than sexual intercourse cannot be used as a reason for divorce in English and Welsh Law. Sex with a member of the same sex (within divorce) is not currently classed as adultery in the eyes of the court and would form part of a divorce petition based on unreasonable behaviour instead.
The easiest way to issue a petition based on adultery is for the person who committed the infidelity to admit to and sign a consent form stating that they have committed adultery. The person with whom the infidelity took place does not need to be named. If they are not willing to admit to adultery, or the adultery took place more than six months ago, then it would be advisable to issue the petition based on unreasonable behaviour as it can be hard to gather the evidence required to prove adultery (such as text messages, emails, witnesses etc.), not to mention that doing so is likely to lead to further tension between you and your ex.
Yes, you can although we would encourage you to try and agree perhaps to share the costs. In the divorce petition there is a section where you can ask the court to make an order that your spouse pays all or some of the divorce costs. As the petitioner is the party who bears most of the divorce costs, it is not unusual for them to ask the other party to pay 50% towards these. However, remember that these costs are in relation to the divorce itself. Any costs incurred in order to sort out financial matters are separate to the divorce costs.
It is possible for your spouse to object to paying all or some of the divorce costs, depending on their income or personal circumstances. As any such objection will cause a delay to the divorce proceeding, it is best to come to an agreement between you (if possible) before the petition is sent to the court in order to avoid proceedings becoming protracted or raising animosity levels.
The simple answer is no, you cannot petition for a divorce based on your own adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Your spouse could use either of these facts to issue a petition for divorce against you though. If it is important to you that you are the petitioner (person who applies for the divorce) then you will need to use another reason.
In England and Wales there is one ground for divorce, which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage proved by reliance on one of 5 facts (or reasons) that you can choose from to show the court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. These are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation, 5 years separation and desertion.
Irreconcilable differences (which simply means that the parties don’t get on any more) is not strong enough on its own for the court to agree that the parties should get divorced. However, examples of how you and your spouse can no longer agree could be used under the umbrella of unreasonable behaviour.
If you have not dealt with financial matters and obtained a sealed consent order from the court, then yes, your spouse can make a claim against you in the future in relation to finances. Without a court order, there is no time limit in which your ex-spouse can make a claim – it can even be decades after the Decree Absolute was pronounced, as long as the person bringing the proceedings has not remarried.
The divorce itself does not sever any financial commitments you have to each other, it simply brings your marriage to an end and allows you to marry again, if you wish. This means that not only could your ex-spouse make a claim against any money from the marriage, but they can also try and claim against any future assets – although there are limits to this.
The exception to this would be if there is a pre-nuptial agreement or post-nuptial agreement in place. Although these do not provide absolute protection, having a pre or post-nuptial agreement in place can – if done properly – really assist in limiting claims against you in the future.
Your ex-spouse’s ability to make a claim regarding finances against you will depend on whether:
- they have remarried – as once a spouse has remarried, they will have terminated, by virtue of the remarriage, any claims that they could make against you. However, it is important to note that only if both parties remarry are all financial ties severed. If only one party remarries, then the other can still make a claim against the unmarried party;
- whether there is a consent order in place (as mentioned above).
In summary the only way to completely break all financial ties to each other is:
- obtain a sealed consent order from the court; or
- both parties remarry
Yes, you can, as long as you are habitually resident in England or Wales, or either you or your spouse (or both of you) have been habitually resident in England or Wales for a least a year prior to the divorce petition being issued.
Habitual residence is considered to be the country where you have your closest ties – such as where you live and work, a place where you reside regularly. You can only be habitually resident in one country at any given time.
The only slight issue with issuing a divorce petition when your ex lives abroad is that it may take longer for the court to serve any documents on them (if being sent by international post). Equally, negotiations may take longer if there are different time zones to take into consideration.
Experienced Divorce Solicitors Hawkins Family Law
We are a specialist law firm, focusing solely on family law matters, such as divorce and separation, and everything that comes with these life-changing events. Established in 2001, the team at Hawkins Family Law are all ‘people’ people and we are committed to producing rounded outcomes for our clients, offering expertise in whatever forum works best for you, always aiming to reach a family dispute resolution as swiftly as possible and with minimum pain.
We can provide family law advice and assistance relating to your divorce and can offer guidance on the best form of dispute resolution, such as collaborative law, to resolve the issues with your partner or ex-partner. We offer these services whether you are married or in a civil partnership.
The way in which you approach your divorce or separation is your choice, but with Hawkins Family Law you can be assured of our consistently high levels of support and guidance from our family law solicitors in Milton Keynes, Bicester & Watford.