The Divorce Process

Whether you’re doing a DIY Divorce or using a solicitor, the divorce process is the same. In order to start the divorce process you need to provide a reason (“ground”) to the Court for the divorce to take place.

The only acceptable ground for divorce in England and Wales is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably (i.e. at least one of you is convinced that the marriage can’t be saved). This can be proved by one of five facts:

  • Adultery: Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to continue living with him/her. (This option isn’t available for the dissolution of a civil partnership.)
  • Unreasonable Behaviour: Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to continue living with him/her.
  • Desertion: You’ve been deserted by your spouse and (s)he has been gone for more than two years;
  • Two Years’ Separation and Consent: You and your spouse have been separated for two or more years and (s)he consents to the divorce;
  • Five Years’ Separation: You and your spouse have been separated for five years or more and therefore you don’t need his/her agreement to the divorce.

The Divorce Process Explained

You must have been married for at least one year before you can apply for to start the divorce process. If you’re completing the Petition you’re referred to as “the Petitioner” and your former partner is referred to as “the Respondent”. You’re the Petitioner in the summary below.

Stage 1

You complete the Petition (and, if there are children, the Statement of Arrangements for Children) and lodge the documents at Court.

Stage 2

The Court issues the Petition (and accompanying documents) and sends copies to both of you. Your partner then completes the Acknowledgement of Service Form and returns it to the Court within seven working days of receiving the Petition.

Stage 3

The Court sends a copy of the Acknowledgement of Service Form to both of you. You complete the Statement in Support of the Divorce and the Application for the Conditional Order and send them to Court.

Stage 4

The Court confirms that the divorce can take place and the date and time when the Decree Nisi will be pronounced (i.e. read out in Court). After waiting six weeks and one day following the Conditional Order, you may then apply for the Decree Absolute.

Stage 5

The Court grants the Decree Absolute and sends a copy to both of you as evidence of the divorce.

Where to Start

The best place to start is to consider whether you intend to manage your divorce by yourself, use a solicitor or a combination of the two. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these options, which are set out in this article about the pros and cons of a DIY divorce.