It is inevitable that you will have many questions relating to divorce, divorce law and divorce proceedings. Below we have tried to answer many of the most frequently asked questions.

What is divorce?

Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage, as sanctioned by a Court. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 governs divorce proceedings.  Divorce ends the legal duties and responsibilities of spouses to each other and the right to automatically inherit the other’s estate under the Rules of Intestacy.

How to get a divorce and start divorce proceedings

To begin divorce proceedings, you must complete a D8 form, known as a divorce petition. There are four stages to a divorce:

  1. Decide which “fact” (ground) you intend to use.
  2. Complete the D8 petition either online or by hand.
  3. The Respondent returns their documents. The petitioner applies for the Decree Nisi.
  4. When a minimum period of 6 weeks and one day has passed after the Decree Nisi is granted, apply for the Decree Absolute. The Decree Absolute means that you are now legally divorced.

How to get a divorce online

You can start a divorce online by completing the electronic version of the D8 petition on the Government website. The form is easy to complete and there are handy guidance notes on the screen if you require more information.  The form is sent electronically to the Court and the petition is then served on the respondent.

How to get a quick divorce

The key to a quick divorce is agreement between the parties on the grounds of the divorce and full co-operation in returning paperwork to the court promptly. There are four stages to a divorce:

  1. Decide which “fact” (ground) you intend to use.
  2. Complete the D8 petition either online or by hand.
  3. The Respondent returns their documents. The petitioner applies for the Decree Nisi.
  4. When a minimum period of 6 weeks and one day has passed after the Decree Nisi is granted, apply for the Decree Absolute. The Decree Absolute means that you are now legally divorced.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

Typically, an uncontested divorce can take around 4 months to complete. If you are also seeking a consent order as part of your divorce, then the divorce and consent order can take 5 to 6 months. If any matter is contested, such as finances or child arrangements, then it may take much longer for matters to be fully concluded. For more information about the divorce process, please read our Wiki page - Getting Divorced?

How much does a divorce cost?

The court fee for a divorce application is £550. If you are on a low income or certain state benefits, you may be exempt from paying the court fee. If you use a solicitor to handle your divorce, there will be additional legal fees. Oratto offers fixed-fee divorce services.

My spouse and I live in different areas of the country - which court will deal with our divorce?

All divorce and consent orders are now submitted to regional divorce centres, rather than to local courts. Divorce applications are sent to the regional divorce centre that covers the area where the petitioner lives.

How long do I have to be married before I can get a divorce?

You must be married for a full 12 months before you are able to submit a petition for divorce.

What are the grounds for a divorce?

There is only one legal "ground" for granting a divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This is established by using one of five "facts": adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation and five years separation. For more information read our Wiki page The five facts in divorce.

Who sees the completed petition?

The only people who see the petition itself are the petitioner, the respondent, their solicitors, and the court staff/judge. Once the petition has been accepted at the Decree Nisi stage, it is then destroyed. The only public document from a divorce is the Decree Absolute, which makes no mention at all of the grounds raised in the petition.

How long after the Decree Nisi has been granted do I have to wait before I can apply for the Decree Absolute?

The soonest a petitioner can apply for a Decree Absolute is six weeks and one day after the date the Decree Nisi has been granted. It is highly advisable to obtain a Consent Order first before applying for the Decree Absolute. The earliest a respondent can apply for the Decree Absolute is three months after the petitioner's six-week minimum time frame has passed; both parties will be required to attend a short court hearing, and the petitioner can request that the Decree Absolute is delayed until the financial matters are resolved.

If I have been separated for five years or more, am I automatically divorced?

No, you will still have to go through the legal process of divorce. But as the respondent's consent isn't required, this should be very straightforward. Our member solicitors will be able to complete the work for you.

What if I don't know where my spouse lives?

There is lots you can do to locate your spouse – place ads in local newspapers, search on social media and online search engines, ask friends and family, etc. – and our member solicitors are able to get tracing agents to work on locating your spouse. Even if you and your solicitor are unable to locate your spouse, it may still be possible to obtain a divorce.

What can the petitioner do if the respondent does not return the acknowledgement of service form?

If the petition is either for adultery or two years separation, then it would be sensible to seek legal advice about amending the original petition so that it doesn't rely on the respondent's consent or admittance of adultery.

The petitioner would need to use either a court bailiff or a process server to personally serve the petition on the respondent and wait 21 days for them to respond. The bailiff or process server will provide the petitioner with a written report confirming that either service has taken place, or that the respondent was unable to be located and therefore service was not successful.

The petitioner would then need to either apply for deemed service, or to dispense with service using the report from the bailiff or process server as proof. It is usually advisable to get a solicitor to do this work for you, as it can often go horribly wrong when petitioners attempt this themselves.

If the application for either deemed service or to dispense with service is successful, the Decree Nisi will be granted.

Can a respondent apply for the Decree Absolute?

A respondent can apply for the Decree Absolute no sooner than 12 weeks after the petitioner's six-week minimum time frame has passed – so 18 weeks minimum.

The respondent will need to submit Form D36 and Form D11, along with a Court Fee of £155. 
The Court will list a short court hearing, which both parties are required to attend. The Judge will require two questions to be answered:

  • Why has the petitioner not made application?
  • Is there a reason why the Absolute should not be granted?

The Petitioner can prevent the Respondent from successfully obtaining the Absolute if the petitioner can show that by doing so it would create financial difficulties where a final financial order has not been granted by the court.

What if I have lost the original Marriage Certificate?

If you married in England or Wales, then you can request a replacement copy from the General Register Office for £9.25. If you married abroad, it may be more difficult to obtain a certified copy, but consulates, embassies and local government offices in the country where you married are all good places to seek help with obtaining a replacement certificate. Our member solicitors will be able to assist you if required.

My Marriage Certificate is in a foreign language

You will need to have your original certificate officially translated into English by a professional translator. The translated copy will need also need to be certified by the translator. The translated copy and your original marriage certificate will need to be submitted along with your divorce petition.

What if one spouse lives in England or Wales and the other spouse lives abroad; can they still divorce using English & Welsh law?

Yes, as long as one spouse is either domiciled or habitually resident in England or Wales when the divorce petition is submitted. For more information on this, you may wish to read this article - Married Abroad - can I get divorced in England & Wales?.

Do I have to agree all financial matters before I start divorce proceedings?

No. Most couples begin the divorce itself before seeking appropriate legal advice and guidance on a fair financial settlement with a view to obtaining a consent order in parallel with the divorce process. You can read more about consent orders on our Wiki page - The importance of a financial consent order on divorce.

Do I have to agree all arrangements for the children before divorce proceedings?

No. Agreeing arrangements for children can be one of the hardest and most contentious issues a couple will face when their relationship breaks down, and finding the arrangements that work best for everyone can be an organic process that evolves over time and often after first trying a number of differing arrangements. We would suggest that once you are agreed, you consider setting out your arrangements in a parenting plan. You can read more about parenting plans in our Wiki page - The benefits of a parenting plan.

We were married abroad – can we still get divorced in England & Wales?

Yes, as long as you meet the jurisdictional requirements for beginning proceedings in England & Wales. For more information, please read this article - Married Abroad - can I get divorced in England & Wales?

Does it make any difference if either or both of us are foreign nationals?

No, as long as you meet the jurisdictional requirements. Please see this article for more information - Does the Court have Jurisdiction?

What is a Clean Break Order?

A clean break is a clause within a Consent Order. It forms a legally binding document that describes how property, pensions, savings and debts will be divided between husband and wife on divorce.

The clean break itself prevents your ex from making financial claims against you in the future if you make money from property investment or receive an inheritance or a lottery win.

You can read more about Consent Orders on our Wiki page - The importance of a financial consent order on divorce.

Can I use on my own adultery for a divorce?

No, you can't. Your spouse would need to petition in respect of your adultery.

Can I name the person my spouse committed adultery with as a co-respondent?

Yes, but adding a co-respondent to your petition means that you are relying on two people to sign, complete and return the paperwork to court. It also means that the co-respondent will be party to all the divorce (not financial) proceedings, when ideally these should concern only you and your spouse. The co-respondent will also be named on your Decree Absolute, which is the document you will need to produce to prove you are divorced.

Can I still initiate divorce proceedings on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour even if we continue living together?

Yes, it's certainly possible – many couples find themselves having to remain under the same roof while they begin divorce proceedings as they are unable to afford separation until the financial settlement is in place.

If we want to divorce using two years separation, will I have to get my spouse's consent before I petition for divorce?

No, it's not essential as your spouse will be given the opportunity to consent when he or she completes the Acknowledgement of Service. Some solicitors do prefer to get this consent in writing before submitting the petition, but it's not a requirement to move forward.

Do grounds for divorce affect financial settlement?

In normal circumstances, the grounds used in the petition do not affect the financial settlement. Only extreme cases, such as one spouse attempting to murder the other or where one spouse has been extremely financially irresponsible, could affect the overall financial settlement.

How to find out if someone is divorced

The decree absolute is a public record, and anyone can request a copy of one.

You can request for the Central Family Court to search for the Decree Absolute. Complete form D440, and send it to the address on the form. There is a fee of £65 per search. If you know both the case number and the court, you can get a copy from the Court that granted the Decree Absolute. There is a fee of £10. 

What is family law?

Family law is an area of law that covers disputes and court proceedings relating to divorce, child arrangements, financial settlements on divorce, civil partnership dissolutions, guardianship of children, separation, adoption, taking a child into care, fostering, child abuse & neglect, judicial separations, and domestic violence orders such as non-molestation and occupation orders.

What is a Child Arrangement Order?

A Child Arrangements Order is a court order that covers all the arrangements relating to a child’s living arrangements and time spent with both parents. It will set out:

 “(a) with whom a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact, and

(b) when a child is to live, spend time or otherwise have contact with any person;” 

The Children and Families Act 2014 replaced Residence and Contact Orders with Child Arrangements Orders.

What does Cafcass stand for?

Cafcass stands for Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Cafcass’s role is to represent the views of children in family court cases in England and to safeguard and promote the welfare of children who are involved in the family justice system.

What is family mediation?

Family mediation is the process in which an independent and professionally trained mediator helps you and your ex-partner resolve issues arising from your break up, such as financial settlements or arrangements for the children. Mediators are neutral and provide a safe space to help and support you as you work through the practical issues of your break up.

How long does a Child Arrangement Order last?

A Child Arrangements Order usually lasts until a child is 16 years old. In exceptional circumstances, the order can last until a child’s 18th birthday, and this would be detailed in the order. If the parents named in the Child Arrangements Order start to live together again, the order would cease after a period of six continual months of cohabitation.

Contact Oratto today

If you have any questions, or would some information, contact Oratto today and speak with one of our friendly and knowledgeable advisers. We can connect you with an experienced divorce solicitor who is right for your specific situation and has the experience you require.  You can also browse through our member solicitors' profiles and select the solicitors you would like to make contact with.