Personal Law

How long does a divorce take?

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, February 19, 2020

The end of a marriage is a hugely stressful and emotional life event. There will be so many things on your mind – who gets the family home, what happens to the finances, your children’s living situation – that you may not even consider how long your divorce will take.

But it probably won’t be long before you do start thinking about it, as most people just want the process completed as quickly as possible.

In many cases of divorce, you’ll find that the answer isn’t as simple as you might expect. Just how long does a divorce take and how many stages are involved in the process?

The stages of a divorce

If you’ve been married for over 12 months and your marriage is valid in the UK, you’ll be eligible to file for divorce. You’ll begin the process of getting divorced by filing a divorce petition. You’ll have to complete the petition form and file it with the court. This will include the court fee and your marriage licence.

The court will then send a copy of the petition to your former partner, with an Acknowledgement of Service form for them to fill out. They’ll have seven days to acknowledge to the court that they have received the divorce petition. They must also tell the court if they consent to the divorce or not.

After the court has reviewed the Acknowledgement of Service form, they will establish whether there is a reason you cannot divorce. If they see no reason why you shouldn’t, they will give you a decree nisi pronouncement date, which is when you can apply for the final decree to divorce.

You can apply to the court for an end to your marriage six weeks and a day after your decree nisi has been granted. You do so by completing an application for a decree absolute. In most cases, it takes between two and three weeks for the court to grant your divorce.

How long will a divorce take in the UK?

The length of the divorce process depends on your circumstances as a couple. You may be going through an amicable and uncontested split where you agree on everything, which would take only as long as the official processes take.

Citizens Advice has said that currently, if you and your former spouse agree on getting divorced and the reasons for doing so, getting it legally finalised will typically take four to six months.

A disputed divorce – where you and your ex can’t find an agreement on the terms – will take a great deal longer. You could benefit from the advice of a good solicitor in this situation. They’ll be able to advise on the best option for you.

No-fault divorce

The no-fault divorce bill has entered Parliament this year. It gives couples the option to divorce without making accusations about one party’s behaviour such as unreasonable behaviour or adultery. Currently, you can only divorce if you accuse your partner of behaviour like this or by separating for a certain period of time.

It will result in a shorter divorce process for couples where one party contests the divorce entirely, as it removes this ability. It has been introduced to make the process of divorce less contentious, making it easier on everyone involved, particularly children.

But it will introduce a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made in the UK. The government says this is so couples have more time to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable.

It’s received criticism, though, as this will extend the amount of time it takes to get divorced for the majority of couples going through an amicable split.

If your marriage is ending and you need a family law solicitor, contact First4Lawyers to find out how we can help.

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