How to Get a Divorce

How to get a divorce

“Although the no fault divorce has been designed to remove any wrongdoing by either party in the divorce process, there is still a lot to consider ahead of filing for divorce. As soon as you have concerns or feel the relationship has broken down get some advice early on. Speaking to a solicitor first can help you understand your position and plan for the future.” – Harpreet Saund, Head of Family

Ending a marriage in the UK now follows a “no-fault” system designed to minimise conflict. While this makes the legal aspect simpler, divorce remains a complex process.

This guide breaks down the key steps, from filing to finalisation, and explains the importance of addressing finances, child arrangements, and obtaining the right support.

The Key Stages of the Divorce Process

Understanding the legal stages of divorce empowers you to make informed decisions and feel more in control. If you want to learn more about how long a divorce takes, click here. Here’s a breakdown of the key steps:

  • Filing for Divorce: Either you, your spouse, or both of you together can file the initial divorce application. It’s essential to include a “statement of irretrievable breakdown” to declare the marriage is over. Seeking legal advice from the start ensures the paperwork is accurate, saving time and potential delays.
  • Responding to the Application: If your spouse files alone, you have 14 days to respond with an “acknowledgement of service.” It’s extremely rare to successfully contest the divorce itself under the new no-fault laws.
  • Conditional Order: After a mandatory 20-week cooling-off period, the court can issue a Conditional Order. This document legally confirms no barriers exist to dissolving the marriage.
  • Final Order: You can apply for the Final Order no sooner than six weeks and one day after the Conditional Order. This legally terminates the marriage. It’s wise to seek legal advice at this point, especially if you haven’t finalised financial or child arrangements (also referred to previously as child custody).

Key Timeframes in the UK Divorce Process

Stage of ProcessMinimum TimeframeImportant Notes
Filing Initial ApplicationImmediateLegal advice recommended
Response to Application14 DaysOnly if your spouse filed alone
Conditional Order Granted20 weeks after applicationMandatory “cooling-off” period
Applying for Final Order6 weeks & 1 day after Conditional OrderLegally ends the marriage

Financial Separation – An Important Aspect

Even in the most amicable divorces, sorting out finances is essential. Reaching an agreement on how to divide assets, debts, and future financial obligations protects both you and your ex-spouse. Here’s why it’s important:

  • Clarity and Fairness: A clear financial settlement creates a clean break, preventing future disputes and ensuring both parties are treated fairly.
  • Speed and Control: A voluntary agreement is typically faster and cheaper than going to court. You have more say over the outcome.
  • Protecting Children’s Interests: Even if your own financial situation is straightforward, it’s vital to make arrangements for your children’s financial support. This should be formalised to ensure their well-being.

Methods for Reaching a Financial Agreement

  • Mediation: A neutral mediator guides you and your former spouse towards a mutually agreeable settlement. This is often the most cost-effective and amicable route.
  • Collaborative Law: You and your ex-spouse each have your own specially trained lawyers. The focus is on working together fairly to reach an agreement.
  • Consent Orders: If you reach a voluntary agreement, a Consent Order formalises it, making the terms legally binding.
  • Court-Ordered Settlement: If you cannot agree, the court will decide how assets are split. This is often the least desirable outcome due to cost, length of process, and loss of control.

Important Note: Even if you think you’ve agreed on everything, the Final Order can impact financial agreements. Seeking legal advice before finalising your divorce protects your long-term interests.

Arrangements for Children (if applicable)

When children are involved, making their needs a top priority during a divorce is crucial. Amicable agreements about custody and financial arrangements are always best for their emotional well-being. Here’s what you need to consider:

  • Where Children Will Live: This decision covers who the children primarily reside with and how much time they’ll spend with the other parent. There are many options, from shared custody to one parent having primary residence with visitation for the other.
  • Contact Arrangements: Detailing how and when the non-resident parent will maintain contact is vital. This includes regular visits, holidays, school events, and communication methods (phone, video calls, etc.).
  • Financial Support: Children need financial security from both parents, regardless of custody arrangements. This involves determining appropriate child maintenance payments.

Prioritising Agreement

While the court can impose decisions, reaching a voluntary agreement, ideally with the help of a mediator, is best for everyone. Here’s why:

  • Stability for Children: Consistent routines and knowing both parents are involved minimises emotional disruption.
  • Reduced Conflict: Amicable agreements lessen the potential for long-term tension between parents, which benefits the children.
  • Tailored Solutions: You and your former spouse understand your children’s needs best, allowing for a solution that fits their unique situation.

When Court Intervention is Needed

Unfortunately, not all divorcing parents can agree on what’s best for their children. In these cases, the court may need to step in and make decisions about custody, contact, and financial support. Seeking legal guidance is essential in these situations.

At RLK, our family and divorce solicitors are ready to help you through every stage of your divorce.

Everything we do on your behalf is open and transparent, so you can be sure of a full estimate of costs from the outset. We’ll always keep you informed so you’ll never face any unexpected bills.

Using Non-Confrontational Dispute Resolution

Recent changes to UK divorce law prioritise minimising conflict. This recognizes that hostile divorces can cause additional stress for everyone involved and harm the co-parenting relationship after the marriage ends. Here’s how this approach works:

  • Mediation as the First Step: In most cases, you’ll need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to explore whether mediation can help you reach agreements about divorce-related issues. Exceptions include situations involving domestic abuse or if one party lives abroad.
  • Why Mediation Succeeds: A neutral mediator facilitates communication, helps you focus on solutions, and defuses potential arguments. The goal is to find common ground and create a plan that benefits both you and your ex-partner.
  • Collaborative Law: When situations are complex (e.g., jointly owned businesses), collaborative law might be appropriate. You and your former spouse each have specialised collaborative lawyers, and everyone works together within a series of structured meetings to find solutions.

Benefits of Non-Confrontational Methods

  • Protecting Relationships: Especially when children are involved, finding ways to work together post-divorce is crucial. Mediation and collaborative approaches foster healthier co-parenting.
  • Faster & More Cost-Effective: Avoiding drawn-out court battles saves time, money, and emotional energy.
  • Better Outcomes: Reaching agreements you both have a hand in crafting often leads to more sustainable solutions than court-imposed ones.

Important Note: Even if you start with mediation or collaborative law, situations can arise where court intervention becomes necessary. Having legal advice throughout the process protects your rights.

Practical Considerations

Understanding the practical and financial aspects of divorce helps you make informed decisions and avoid unexpected hurdles. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Before You Apply

  • Counselling: If you have any doubts or unresolved feelings about the divorce, individual or couples counselling can provide clarity and support.
  • Initial Agreements: If possible, discuss financial division, child arrangements, etc., with your ex-spouse in advance. This can streamline the formal process.

Costs and Legal Aid

  • Court Fees: The standard divorce application fee is £593. You might be able to share this cost with your former spouse.
  • Legal Aid: You may qualify for financial help with court fees and/or legal representation if you’re on a low income or receive certain benefits. It’s essential to apply for legal aid before starting the divorce process.
  • Solicitor Costs: These vary. Look for family law specialists and discuss fee structures upfront.

Why a Solicitor is Important

Even with simplified divorce laws, expert legal advice is invaluable. A solicitor can:

  • Handle Communication: They can liaise with your ex-spouse and their lawyer, reducing stressful interactions.
  • Ensure Fairness: They’ll protect your interests and help you negotiate a fair financial settlement.
  • Representation: If you do end up in court, a solicitor advocates for you effectively.
  • Finding Resources: Solicitors can connect you with mediators, counsellors, or other support services you might need.

If You Have a UK Visa

  • Losing Your Visa: Your dependent visa will be invalidated once the divorce is final. This could mean needing to apply for a new visa, or potentially leaving the UK.
  • Seek Specialist Advice: Immigration law is complex. An immigration solicitor can explain your options and help you navigate the system.

The Application Process

Step 1: Prepare

  • Obtain Documents: Your marriage/civil partnership certificate (order replacements if needed)
  • Partner’s Contact Info: Their current address and ideally their email address.
  • Decide on Legal Help: Will you use a solicitor? If eligible, apply for legal aid before starting the process.

Step 2: Apply for the Divorce

  • Online (Recommended): Visit the GOV.UK website for the fastest method. A solicitor can apply for a divorce online on your behalf.
  • Paper Forms: If you can’t apply online, download forms from the GOV.UK site. Follow the instructions for submitting by post.

Step 3: Your Partner’s Response (Sole Applications Only)

  • Timeline: Your spouse has 14 days to acknowledge receipt of the application.
  • Contesting (Very Rare): Under no-fault laws, they can only contest in limited circumstances (e.g., the marriage was invalid).

Step 4: Conditional Order

  • Mandatory Waiting Period: You can apply for the Conditional Order 20 weeks after submitting the initial divorce application.
  • Court Confirmation: The court issues this document, confirming there’s no legal barrier to the divorce proceeding.

Step 5: Final Order

  • Waiting Period: You must wait at least 6 weeks and one day after the Conditional Order was issued.
  • Who Can Apply: Either you or your former spouse (if you applied jointly). If you applied solely, your spouse cannot apply for the Final Order for 3 months after you become eligible.

Important Notes:

  • Serving Papers: The court typically handles this, but you may need to if your spouse can’t be located. Seek legal advice if this applies to you.
  • Financial Agreements: The Final Order can impact them, even if you made a prior informal agreement. Always get legal advice before finalisation.

Average Divorce Costs in the UK (2024)

Category of CostTypical Price Range
Mandatory Court Fee (Divorce Application)£593
DIY Divorce£593 (court fee only)
Uncontested Divorce (with solicitors)£1,000 – £2,000
Contested Divorce (with solicitors)£3,000 – £10,000+
Financial Settlement£500 – £5,000
Divorce Mediation (per hour)£150 – £300

Get Expert Legal Help for Your Divorce – Contact RLK Solicitors Today

Divorce is a complex process, both legally and emotionally. Understanding the steps involved reduces stress and helps you make the best decisions for your future. While recent “no-fault” laws simplify the process, reaching agreements on finances and child arrangements can feel overwhelming.

Expert legal advice is invaluable throughout your divorce journey. RLK Solicitors’ family and divorce specialists in Birmingham have a proven track record of providing compassionate, practical support. With their expertise, you can navigate the divorce process confidently while protecting your rights and your family’s well-being.

RLK’s Expertise

  • Divorce and separation
  • Financial settlements
  • Child arrangements
  • Domestic abuse support
  • Initial consultations
  • Fixed fee options

Contact RLK Solicitors today for personalised guidance and support during this challenging time.