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How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in the UK?
If you have made the decision to end your marriage, it is normal to want to get the process over with as quickly as possible. One of the first questions on many people’s minds during separation is simply: ‘how long does a divorce take?’. Most people understandably want to minimise the stress and potential for conflict and be able to move on swiftly, so it is understandable to be concerned about exactly how long your divorce will take.
While, with the introduction of no-fault divorce, the process of applying for a divorce now takes a minimum of 26 weeks, exactly how long your divorce takes will depend on a number of additional factors, including:
- Whether you make a sole or joint application for a no fault divorce
- How quickly you are able to reach a financial settlement and agree other details, such as arrangements for any children you have
- Whether you can agree the details of your divorce voluntarily or need to go to court for this
In this article, we will look at how these various factors can affect how long a divorce takes and what you can do to help your divorce proceed as quickly as possible.
Understanding divorce timescales and how long a divorce takes
There are various steps involved in getting a divorce. Knowing what they are and the time scales involved with each can give you a clearer idea of how long your divorce is likely to take overall.
Common questions about how long a divorce takes
So, how long does it take to get a divorce? Answering that question definitively is somewhat difficult, given how many different stages and timeframes are involved in the process, as well as the changes to legislation brought about by the introduction of no fault divorce in the UK.
We have put together a number of common questions related to how long a divorce takes, giving you a clearer idea of what to expect when it comes to no fault divorce timeframes.
How long does it take to file a divorce application?
With no fault laws now in place, the first step in the divorce process is to make a divorce application, either online or by post. Under previous divorce laws, a divorce application was known as a divorce petition. A divorce application will usually be completed by your divorce solicitor, who can advise you on how to correctly fill out the relevant paperwork and ensure there are no errors that could hold up your application.
Depending on how quickly you are able to arrange an appointment with your divorce lawyer, this can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
How long does it take to respond to a divorce application?
If one spouse makes a sole application (the applicant), the other spouse (the respondent) will be required to confirm receipt of the application. This is done by filling out and sending back an ‘acknowledgement of service’. This must be completed within 14 days of receiving the application.
Under no fault divorce rules, respondents are no longer able to contest or refuse to acknowledge a divorce application.
Previously, if the responding spouse decided to defend the divorce, both spouses would have been required to attend a court hearing for a judge to decide whether to grant the divorce. This would then have a significant impact on the average time to get a divorce, as couples would have to wait for an available court date.
How long does it take to get a Conditional Order?
Once a divorce application is issued by the court, the applicant, or joint applicants, must then wait a minimum of 20 weeks before they can apply for a Conditional Order to be issued. The Conditional Order, which under previous laws was called a Decree Nisi, is a legal document confirming that there is no reason why the couple should not be allowed to proceed with their divorce.
It is important to remember that this 20 week ‘cooling off’ period is a minimum time frame. It could take longer for the court to issue a Conditional Order, depending on a number of factors.
How long does it take to get a Final Order?
Once a Conditional Order has been issued, applicants can then apply for a Final Order. Final Orders were once known as Decree Absolutes. A Final Order is the legal confirmation that the marriage has officially ended.
Applicants can apply for a Final Order a minimum of 6 weeks after a Conditional Order is issued.
How quickly can I get divorced?
So, with all this in mind, how long does it take to get a divorce? And how quickly could you potentially confirm a divorce? With the timeframes introduced by no fault divorce, the process of a divorce takes a minimum of 26 weeks to complete (20 weeks for the Conditional Order and 6 weeks for the Final Order).
However, this doesn’t necessarily provide a comprehensive answer to ‘how long does a divorce take’? Even the most amicable and straightforward divorces will often come with additional complications, and there are often various arrangements which will affect the average time to get a divorce.
These might include reaching a financial settlement or making arrangements for children. All this means often means that the time it takes to comprehensively settle a no fault divorce will take longer than just the stated 26 weeks.
How long does a divorce take when making a divorce settlement?
The process of agreeing a divorce settlement, including how your finances will be separated and what will happen to any children you have, is entirely separate from the legal process of ending your marriage, as outlined above. If you and your spouse can agree the details voluntarily, this can take as little as a few weeks to arrange.
However, if you cannot agree the details of your divorce, you will likely need to apply to a judge to decide for you. This can take months or even years, depending on how far in the future your court hearing is set and whether either spouse decides to appeal the judge’s initial decision.
If your goal is a fast divorce, it is therefore in your interests to agree the divorce settlement voluntarily wherever this is possible without compromising your interests and those of your loved ones.
How long does a divorce take when making arrangements for children?
Similarly, making arrangements for children can significantly alter how long it takes to get a divorce. As you would expect, if you and your former partner are able to come to a voluntary agreement about the arrangements you would like to make for your children, this can reduce the potential time it takes, as you will not be required to file any official paperwork.
If you would like to make a voluntary agreement legally binding, our divorce solicitors can draft a Consent Order which will then need to be approved by the court, which could take around 6-10 weeks.
If you are unable to come to a voluntary agreement, you may need to apply to court to make a court order, such as a child arrangements order or a specific issue order. To do so, you will need to have attended a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM).
There is no standard time frame for getting a court order for children, and it can often take between 6 to 12 months.
Using non-confrontational dispute resolve to get divorced faster
Your divorce will usually go much faster if you and your ex-partner can agree on the details of your divorce, including financial settlements and arrangements for children voluntarily, rather than relying on a judge to decide for you. This is because you won’t need to wait for a court date but can simply get on with working out a divorce settlement and other arrangements straightaway.
While any agreement reached in this way will be voluntary, you can apply for a Consent Order from a court to make the agreement legally binding. This means you can achieve a resolution faster while still having the reassurance that your former partner cannot simply change their mind later and stop honouring the agreement.
There are two main methods used for non-confrontational divorce – mediation and collaborative law. Both are usually much faster than taking your divorce through the courts, with each having different advantages depending on your circumstances.
Using mediation for divorce
This is generally the fastest and most cost-effective way to get divorced and is now the most popular option for separating couples in the UK.
The process involves both spouses meeting with a trained, neutral mediator who will guide you through the issues you need to resolve, such as deciding how to separate your finances and what arrangements you will need to make for your children.
The mediator will not tell you what you should do but instead will encourage you to find solutions that work for both of you. They are there to facilitate the discussion and defuse any potential conflicts, helping to keep the process amicable and productive.
Mediation is the government’s preferred option for dealing with divorce, and separating couples are now required to at least consider mediation before taking their divorce to a family court in most cases. You will, therefore, usually need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), where the process and its benefits will be explained to you, so you can decide whether mediation is right for you.
If you wish to have your divorce dealt with by a judge, you will normally need a signed form showing you attended a MIAM before proceeding. The exception to this is if mediation would clearly not be appropriate or practical, for example, if there has been domestic abuse in the relationship or if one spouse now lives abroad.
Using collaborative law for divorce
Collaborative law offers an alternative to mediation and can be more appropriate if there are particularly complicated issues to resolve as the process involves both parties being supported during negotiations by their own lawyers. While this does mean collaborative law can be a bit more expensive and may take longer than mediation, it is still usually significantly faster and less expensive than court action.
Collaborative law involves both spouses meeting to negotiate the details of their divorce, each accompanied by their own lawyer (who must be trained in collaborative law). Over the course of several meetings, the four participants will discuss all of the details that need to be agreed upon and work together to find solutions. Other professionals, such as accountants and tax advisors, can also be consulted as part of the process where specialist expertise is needed.
Why choose Crisp & Co for your divorce?
Crisp & Co’s family law solicitors have been specialising in divorce and separation for more than 20 years. With strong expertise in all areas of family law, we can guide you through all of the issues surrounding divorce and family breakdown, including financial settlements and arrangements for children. We also have strong experience in same sex marriages and civil partnerships.
Our divorce lawyers are highly skilled in non-confrontational dispute resolution, including both mediation and collaborative law. Our team includes Resolution-trained mediators and trained collaborative lawyers, giving us the expertise you need to minimise the conflict in your divorce while protecting your interests.
Our non-confrontational approach to divorce means we are usually able to help you get divorced faster and at a lower cost compared to court action. This approach also means it is usually possible to maintain a better relationship with your former spouse, which can be highly beneficial. For example, if you have children, you need to continue parenting together.
Get in touch with our divorce solicitors in London & South East England
Our divorce solicitors in London, Guildford, Brighton and across the South East can help to make sure your divorce goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. With our extensive experience and focus on non-confrontational family law, we make it easier and more cost-effective to get a divorce that works for you and your loved ones.