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How to get divorced

Divorce law can be confusing, and you may find it a stressful process to work through. However, if you find yourself considering how to get divorced, you’re not alone. Many couples are faced with this ordeal.

Here at Hawkins Family Law, our divorce solicitors understand that the breakdown of a marriage is a heavy and hard time. The procedures required to take place in order for a divorce to occur can seem overwhelming. That’s why we’ve decided to take you through the process of how to get a divorce step-by-step. This guide aims to answer questions, explain the methods, define the terms, and best prepare you for getting divorced.

Questions to ask before you apply for a divorce

How long do you have to be separated before divorce?

The first question you ask as you begin the divorce process may be “when can I get a divorce?” The quick answer is that you providing you have been married for over a year, you are immediately eligible for a divorce.

If you haven’t been married for a year, you can consider alternatives, such as judicial or legal separations. These can allow you to live apart from your partner or spouse without applying for a divorce or ending a civil partnership. You can also consider an annulment.

What are the grounds for divorce?

There is only one ground for divorce, and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. It used to be the case that you then had to choose from one of five facts in order to prove to the court that this had happened. However, under the new divorce process (which was made law on 6th April 2022), you no longer need to do this. Instead, as the proceedings cannot be defended, you are automatically entitled to a divorce providing you notify your spouse through the court.

Can a divorce be denied?

The new no-fault regime removes the blame associated with divorce proceedings and prevents a party from defending the petition. It is expected to remove a lot of conflict and animosity at the outset of separation and should see divorces progress far more smoothly than they have historically.

Can you get legal aid for a divorce?

Legal aid is no longer available for any legal costs in relation to a divorce unless there has been domestic abuse, violence or child abduction.

We do not offer legal aid at Hawkins Family Law, but you can check whether you are eligible for legal aid on the government website.

Can you get divorced without a solicitor?

The simple answer is yes. You can complete the divorce documents online yourself or use an online agent for a fee.  Regardless of the route you choose, you will still need to pay the court fee of £593.   Generally, the more important aspects of getting a divorce relate to sorting out your finances and any child arrangements. Having a solicitor to deal with all the paperwork and correspondence with the court can help reduce the stress involved in the process at a time when emotions are already running high. A solicitor can also communicate with your spouse so that you don’t have to.

How much does a divorce cost in this jurisdiction?

In England and Wales, the court charges a fee of £593 for processing a divorce. There will be additional costs if you decide to instruct a solicitor to deal with the divorce paperwork. Any fees relating to disputes over finances or arrangements for children may incur additional costs.

Nothing makes a divorce more expensive than conflict, dispute, or lack of cooperation. These costs tend to occur whilst looking into the division of the parties’ finances or childcare arrangements. Other things can affect the cost of a divorce. You can read more about divorce costs in our blog  How Much Does a Divorce Cost.

We would always recommend asking a solicitor for assistance with divorce proceedings. This can avoid any unnecessary delays and ensure that all the paperwork is completed correctly.

Who pays for a divorce?

Under the new no fault regime for divorce, it is likely that the applicant party will fund the costs of the divorce themselves. It is possible to make a joint application under the new regime and if you are interested in doing so, sharing the costs, it is worth speaking with a solicitor to see how this would work in practice.

How will divorce affect your shared finances, home, and children?

The divorce process itself won’t have a direct bearing on arrangements for children or the matrimonial finances usually.

However, if possible, it’s a good idea to figure out your finances before you apply for a divorce. You can make an agreement between you, but if you can’t reach an agreement then you may need a solicitor for help in achieving a financial settlement. They can also advise and help you once you have decided what to do and explain how make the agreement legally binding.

There are also options when it comes to your shared home. You can sell it, but it may be more sensible for one of you to keep the house if there isn’t much money that can be made from the sale. Dividing assets can be stressful, but you can read all about it in our guide, Understanding Your Assets During a Divorce.

If you have children together, you will need to make child arrangements or agreements on where they will live and how much time they will spend with each parent, alongside who will pay for anything that they need, which can include clothing and toiletries, to after school clubs and sporting activities.

Is there jurisdiction for a divorce?

Your ability to be divorced is dependent on a number of factors including where you are domiciled and where your habitual residence is. To be habitually resident in a country, you need to be able to show that it is where your centre of interest is. This is usually evidenced by where you primarily live, where your children go to school etc. In essence it is the country that you spend most of your time in and have put down roots in.

Domicile is more technical legal term and generally refers to the country in which your father was born. You can change your domicile by permanently moving to a country and severing all ties with the country you lived in before.

You can be habitually residence and domiciled in the same country, for example, if you were born and raised in England, as was your father, then your domicile is England and you are habitually residence in England.

The rules around jurisdiction can be complex, so it is important to seek legal advice it you are at all unsure about whether an English court has jurisdiction to grant you a divorce.

How long does a divorce take?

It can be difficult to say for sure how long a divorce will take. It often depends on how quickly the courts are dealing with applications – it can sometimes take longer when the courts receive a large number of applications.  Roughly, a divorce can take around six to nine months from start to finish.

What is the easiest way to get divorced?

The easiest way to get divorced is to be well prepared before you apply. A divorce and financial disputes can take anywhere from a few months to years to resolve, depending upon the complexity of the situation and the parties’ approach to disputes. This can be both emotionally and financially draining. In order to avoid this, and to speed up the process, make sure that you prepare in advance. Figure out what you want to do with your finances, property and child arrangements beforehand. You can make an effort to understand the England and Wales divorce laws and divorce process. Read up on what factors decided how assets are divided in a divorce. Our blog, How is Money Divided in a Divorce could be a helpful read. This could save you considerable amounts of time and money that you may have wasted fighting in court.

How to apply for a divorce

Pay the fee

From 6th April 2022 you can only apply for a divorce online. There is a court fee of £593 and you will need a credit or debit card to pay this fee.

Fill in the form

In order to apply for a divorce, you must complete a divorce petition.  Although you can get a divorce petition online from the GOV.UK website, a family law solicitor could also handle all of the divorce paperwork on your behalf. This can be extremely helpful, and they will always have access to the most up-to-date forms. Either way, there are two options on how to apply for a divorce that you can utilise:

  • Through a solicitor, who will be made in charge of completing all the paperwork;
  • Doing it yourself via the online portal

In the petition you will need to complete a statement that confirms that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You will also need to provide your details, along with those of your spouse.

The court will require a copy of your original marriage certificate –  you will need to upload a scanned 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. Once you have sent off the divorce petition, the court will consider the divorce paperwork.

What do I do if my divorce application is rejected?

If your application is rejected, the court will write to you informing you why this has happened.  It may be that information is missing or clarity is required on specific issues.  These issues can usually be resolved by writing to the court.

What happens after you apply for a divorce?

After you apply for a divorce, providing that everything is in order, a copy of the document will be sent by the court to your spouse. The court will let you know when it has been sent to them. The court will also provide your spouse with and Acknowledgement of Service form (D10), which they will need to complete and return to the court.

The above will only happen if you have made a sole application for a divorce. If you have made a joint application with your spouse, they may not be sent a copy and they will not need to complete an Acknowledgement of Service form.

What is an Acknowledgement of Service form?

An Acknowledgement of Service is the form that the Respondent (your spouse) in a divorce petition receives. It needs to be completed carefully as it is the reply to the divorce petition.  Sometimes a cost claim may have been made, and this will need to be addressed in the reply.

The Acknowledgement of Service form used to be where the Respondent confirmed whether or not they  intended to defend the divorce.  However, under the new no-fault divorce process, it is no longer possible to defend a divorce. However, it is still possible to dispute a divorce on the basis of validity of the marriage or jurisdiction (for example, if the parties live abroad). Once completed, it must be sent back to the court and the court will provide a copy to the Applicant .

If the Respondent (your spouse) does not complete the Acknowledgement of Service, then you need to consider how you can serve them with the divorce petition.  We usually suggest waiting at least 28 days   This can be done by having the documents personally served on them by way of a process server or court bailiff.

If you are at all unsure about what to do if the Acknowledgement of Service hasn’t been completed and returned to the court, then it is best to speak to a family law solicitor, who can advise you on the options available.

Pronouncement of Conditional Order

A Conditional Order is the interim stage of the divorce. You can apply for the Conditional Order no less than 20 weeks after the court have approved the divorce petition. This timeframe provides a “cooling off period” in order to prevent spur of the moment divorces.

The Conditional Order confirms you are entitled to a divorce, but it does not mean that you are divorced yet.  It is important to obtain the Conditional Order  as it is only after this point that the court is able to consider any agreement reached between you and your spouse regarding the matrimonial finances.

Applying for a Final Order

The Final Order is a legal document that will officially bring an end to your marriage. It can be applied once six weeks have passed from the date that the Conditional Order was granted. It is advisable not to apply for the Final Order until financial matters have been resolved.  You may also find Does My Name Change When I Get A Divorce helpful.

The court will send the Final Order to both parties or to the solicitors who are acting for them. Once it is received you are no longer married and are free to marry again.

 For more information about our services, or if you are looking for reliable and accredited legal advice regarding your divorce,  speak to one of our team today.

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