Frequently Asked Questions


Divorce FAQ

Q. How do I get divorced?

The UK does not have an American-style "no fault" divorce system, and so it is always necessary for one spouse to take action to divorce the other.  This is done by filing a document called a divorce petition.  We will talk you through every step of this process, and if you decide you want to petition for divorce, we can draft this document for you.

Q. Am I entitled to get divorced?

The one ground for divorce in England and Wales is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

This is proved on the basis of one of five possible facts, including unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or a period of at least two years separation.

Q. What is the procedure for getting divorced?

The divorce petition is filed with the court and then served on the other spouse, who has the opportunity to respond.  If the petition is not contested, the petitioner then applies for the Decree Nisi (the "halfway stage" of divorce) to be pronounced by the court.  Again, we will handle this application for you.  The court will grant the Decree Nisi if they are satisfied that the petitioner has proved their case.

Six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi has been pronounced, the petitioner can apply for the Decree Absolute, which is the final decree and which replaces the marriage certificate.  Once Decree Absolute is pronounced, the marriage is officially ended.

If the petitioner does not wish to apply for Decree Absolute at that stage, the other spouse (the Respondent) can apply for it instead after three more months have passed.  We can deal with all the necessary applications on your behalf, but we will always work at your pace and will never proceed with any action if you are not comfortable with us doing so.

Q. How long will it take?

We normally advise that, if there are no questions over children or financial matters, your divorce should be completed in 3-6 months.

Q. We've not fallen out, and we're still on speaking terms. Can we apply for a "quickie" divorce?

There is no such thing as a “quickie” divorce. The process is the same for everyone in England and Wales, regardless of their financial background or arrangements that are made for the children.

If a couple are splitting up, their divorce will usually take between 3-6 months to complete. Each case is different, but there is no special “quickie” procedure to make things go faster. In most cases, there is a delay while people agree what should happen with the finances, the house, and any savings and bank accounts.

Q. But I've read about celebrities getting "quickie" divorces, can't we do that?

This is inaccurate reporting. Whenever a celebrity couple’s marriage breaks up, the media usually uses the term “quickie divorce” to refer to attendance at court. In the main divorce proceedings, if matters are agreed, no-one needs to attend court.  (This is the “five minute hearing” that’s often mentioned – it refers to pronouncement of decree nisi, which is often not controversial.)  It's also important to remember that many celebrity divorces take place in the USA, where the law is completely different.

Q. What about companies on the Internet who say they can sort out my divorce in a couple of days?

There are companies who offer a “quick divorce” service. This is rather misleading.  These “divorces” may be fully recognised in the UK, but they are unlikely to deal with any financial disputes or arrangements for the children, which are often the aspects of divorce which people need assistance with.

It’s important to remember that the process of actually getting divorced in the UK is quite mechanical and straightforward – if the costs are agreed between you, then you each only need to fill in a couple of forms, and there’s no need for either of you to ever attend court. It’s when arrangements regarding children or money have not been agreed that a divorce can take longer. Arguments over these things can add a considerable amount of time to a case, but it is vital to make sure these matters are resolved so that you protect your financial position and have a clear structure of contact and arrangements for the children.

Q. How are the finances settled when a couple get divorced? Does each person automatically get 50% of everything?

No. The court's starting point when deciding how to divide a couple's financial assets is a 50/50 split, but this is only the starting point - there are many things which will affect the final calculation, including arrangements for the children, the length of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, and the contributions each spouse made to the relationship (both financial and non-financial).  Every case is different.  We can help advise you on what a fair and realistic settlement would be in your particular situation.

Q. My spouse committed adultery and we're getting divorced. Does this mean I'll get a good financial settlement, since they were obviously in the wrong?

No. The court does not generally take bad behaviour into account when considering financial matters.

Q. My ex-partner and I are getting divorced, and we cannot agree on how to divide the finances.  What happens now?

If it is not possible to reach agreement, then it may be necessary to go to court to resolve matters, and have the court make a decision on what will happen to your assets and property.

Court proceedings can be both lengthy and costly, and it is always far better to reach an agreement if at all possible.  We will do our best to help you achieve this, providing you with the honest, accurate advice you need in order to make an informed choice.  However, there are some situations where going to court is unfortunately an unavoidable last resort, and should that be the case, we will work hard on your behalf to protect your position.

Q. My partner and I were never officially married, but we've been living together for 20 years and have children, so we're common law husband and wife. How do we get divorced?

This is probably the biggest misconception we come across when it comes to family law. The fact is that in England and Wales, there is no such thing as a “common law husband” or “common law wife”.  If you are not married, then you cannot get divorced, no matter how long you have lived together, even if you have children together or own a house in joint names.  The law will treat your split as a separation, not a divorce - see our Separation FAQ for more information.

If you have a question that isn't covered by this FAQ, or if you would like more information on the issues surrounding divorce, please give us a call on (029) 2034 2233, e-mail, or use the form below to request a call or e-mail from us.  You will not be charged for this enquiry, and there is no obligation to book an appointment.

Need to know more?