The process of divorce or separation can be one of the most stressful times in your life, and you might feel overwhelmed if you are unfamiliar with how it works or what it entails.
As a result of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, which was introduced on 6 April 2022, a party or pair can initiate divorce proceedings without assigning blame or offering a reason.
We have outlined the seven steps involved in getting a divorce here. In steps one to four, we explain how to initiate divorce proceedings. Divorce completion is explained in the last three steps.
Step 1: Apply for a divorce
The divorce application can be filed jointly by a couple or by one individual. You can apply online or or via post. It is no longer necessary to cite a reason for divorce or blame your partner - divorce is filed primarily on the basis of irretrievable breakdown.
Step 2: Period of Reflection
As soon as the court receives your application, a copy is sent to your partner and you begin the important 20 week reflection period. Specifically, the new law stipulates that at least 20 weeks must elapse between the initial application and the granting of a conditional order, which is the old decree nisi, and then there is further six weeks until the final order is granted.
While some were concerned the new law would result in 'quicker/easier' divorces, this period will result in the shortest divorces still taking 6 months rather than 3-4 months.
Step 3: Application for Conditional Order
Apply for a conditional order and decide whether to make a financial claim. Divorce applications include a question asking if you want to make a financial claim, i.e. if you want to finalise your finances in court after your divorce. Financial disclosure forms are not mandatory for every divorce, but they are useful to give both parties a clear understanding of each other's financial position, since people don't always know how to split the assets fairly.
Regardless of how you divide things up, it's important that you are honest and open about your financial situation before you start thinking about how things will be divided. Divorce applications do not include financial disclosure, but it is generally done concurrently with the application.
Step 4: Review Application
Upon receiving your application, the court reviews it. The court will need your completed application, along with either your original marriage certificate or an official copy (which you can get from the local registrar for a small fee). The divorce application can also be submitted online rather than on paper. To apply for a divorce, you will also need to pay a fee (currently £550) - the application won't be processed without payment. Cheques, debit cards, and credit cards are all accepted for payment.
While the applicant is responsible for paying the fee, many people agree to share the costs with their ex-partners, if they know the application is in process. You may be eligible for fee assistance if you are on a low income, but you will need to submit a separate application and provide details about your situation.
Step 5: Conditional Order
A conditional order is granted (and the six-week cooling off period begins). Your ex-partner will receive a copy of your divorce application once you submit it to the court. An acknowledgment of service form must be signed and returned to the court by the 'responder' to acknowledge receipt of the divorce application.
After receiving the papers, they have seven days to complete this process. A divorce can no longer be contested by an ex partner under the new Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act.
Step 6: Apply for Final Order
The final order is applied for by you. A divorce is finalized six weeks and a day after a final order is issued. After the ‘six weeks and a day’ period is up, the applicant will be required to apply for the final order (the legal document that officially dissolves your marriage).
Step 7: Final Order is Granted
The final order is granted by the court. After your conditional order is granted, you must file for your final order within a year, otherwise, you will have to go through more court proceedings, which will cause further delays.