The Legal Steps of Divorce

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No one goes into a marriage expecting it to end in divorce but sadly, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK divorce rate is currently estimated to be 42%, meaning that around four in every ten marriages will end this way.

Deciding to get a divorce is a difficult and emotionally-charged decision for any couple and even thinking about the divorce proceedings can seem overwhelming so we’re here to break down the main stages involved in the legal steps of divorce.

Check You’re Eligible

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You’ll need to check if you’re eligible to divorce. In the UK, you can get a divorce if your marriage is legally recognised in this country, you’ve been married for more than a year and your relationship has broken down permanently. Other ways to end the relationship include annulment and legal separation. Different arrangements apply for ending a civil partnership.

Finding a Solicitor

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The first step to getting a divorce is to find a family law solicitor or divorce lawyer that you can trust. You can search for local solicitors online or you may know someone who has been through divorce proceedings who can recommend their divorce lawyer.

The average cost of divorce across the UK currently stands at £14,561, however, pricing can vary, with some solicitors charging fixed rates and others billing on an hourly basis. Rates will also vary depending on your location as prices fluctuate throughout the UK, for example, London based divorce lawyers will typically cost more than solicitors operating in other areas of the country.

The Petition and Response

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After instructing your solicitor, you will need to choose one of the five grounds for divorce and file a divorce petition to the court. As of April 2022, a landmark reform to divorce law allows couples to apply jointly for a No-Fault Divorce.

The divorce petition will be sent to ‘the respondent’ (i.e. your spouse) for them to sign and return within 14 days, agreeing to the proceedings.

The Conditional Order

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A conditional order confirms that there is no reason why you cannot divorce. 20 weeks after the application has been issued you can apply for the conditional order. You can do this solely (even if your spouse doesn’t agree or isn’t cooperating) or jointly. If the court is satisfied and in agreement that you’re entitled to a divorce, then the conditional order will be made. You may also hear this referred to as a decree nisi.

The court will send you and your husband or wife a certificate, however, this may take several weeks to arrive. It’s important to understand that even after this is granted, you are still legally married and will need to wait another 6 weeks and 1 day before you can apply to finalise your divorce.

The Pronouncement of the Final Order

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43 days after your conditional order has been granted you can apply to officially end your marriage. Before you do this, you should ensure that any financial or custodial issues or disputes have been settled and legally binding arrangements have been put in place, for example, regarding the division of property and child custody, as it won’t be possible to do this after you have been granted your final order.

After you apply, the court will check that all the appropriate conditions have been met to grant your divorce. The final order (previously known as a decree absolute) will be sent to your solicitor. You will need a copy of this in case you ever need to prove your divorce or want to re-marry in the future. Once your final order or decree absolute is issued you are officially divorced and no longer legally married.

We’re very proud to bring you this feature in association with Simpson Millar. For more features, please pay a visit to our lifestyle page.

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