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How to Get a Divorce in the UK

If you are planning on getting divorced there is a strict legal process you need to go through. Understanding the process and what is required can make it easier for you to get divorced by allowing you to be properly prepared, minimising the risk of any unexpected problems holding up your divorce.

In this article, we will cover some of the most important points you need to consider:

  • How the divorce process works
  • What the grounds for divorce are
  • Financial settlements
  • Arrangements for children
  • Using non-confrontational dispute resolution for divorce

For specific advice on how to get divorced and the divorce process, please get in touch with our divorce solicitors in London and across the South East now by calling 020 8017 8962 or contact your local Crisp & Co office.


How the divorce process works in the UK

There are various steps involved in the divorce procedure. By correctly preparing for and carrying out each step, you can give yourself the best chance of a smooth, faster and cost-effective divorce that protects your interests.

Filing for divorce – To start divorce proceedings, a single or joint divorce application must be sent to your local family court. Within the application, you must include a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’ in order to confirm that the relationship has run its course.  

At this stage, it’s usually a good idea to get advice from a specialist divorce lawyer to ensure all of the correct details are included in the application, and this can help save time.

Responding to a divorce application – If your spouse makes a sole application for divorce, you will be notified by the relevant court and must reply within 14 days with an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form.  

Conditional Order – The Conditional Order is a legal document issued by a court establishing that there is no barrier to your divorce.

After the divorce application has been issued, there is a minimum 20-week cooling off period before you can apply for the Conditional Order. This has been introduced as part of the no-fault divorce laws and aims to give couples time to consider their decision and make any necessary choices.

Final Order – Once a Conditional Order has been granted, you will then need to wait at least 6 weeks, and you can then apply for a Final Order. Once a court issues you with a Final Order, your marriage is officially over.

Defending a divorce – Under the no-fault divorce laws, the option to contest/defend a divorce has been removed for all but can be contested under the most limited circumstances. For instance, when marriage is not valid, or the English/Welsh courts have no jurisdiction.

Divorce settlements – When you get divorced, you will need to agree on how to divide your finances and what will happen to assets such as your home. If you have children, you will need to decide who they will live with, what contact each parent will have with them and how they will be supported.

Grounds for divorce in the UK

Within the UK, there is only one ground for divorce, the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. In order to get divorced, you will need to include a statement declaring this within the divorce application process.

Previously divorce laws required spouses to provide an additional supporting reason for their divorce application using one of the following five reasons…

  • Adultery,
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separation for more than 2 years
  • Separation for more than 5 years

Since the introduction of no-fault divorce laws in April 2022, it is no longer necessary to use these five reasons as grounds for your divorce. The change to the law was made to prevent further conflict between divorcing couples by making them place blame.

Making a financial settlement when getting divorced

When you divorce, you and your former partner will need to reach a settlement about how to divide your money, property and any other assets. You can do this voluntarily or you can take the matter to court and have a judge decide for you.

In most cases, it will be faster and cheaper to agree the details of your financial settlement with your ex-partner. Methods such as mediation and collaborative law can make it easier to reach a fair settlement while you can use a Consent Order to make a voluntary arrangement legally binding for the future.

Making arrangements for children when getting divorced

If you and your spouse have children, making arrangements for their care will no doubt be one of your top priorities. This includes deciding who they will live with, what level of contact the non-resident parent will have and how the children will be supported financially.

Again, this is something you can agree voluntarily or ask a judge to decide in court. It is usually in everyone’s best interests, particularly those of your children, if you can make a voluntary arrangement. Resorting to court action increases the likelihood of conflict between you and your former spouse with the potential to damage your relationship further and make it harder for you to parent your children together.

Using non-confrontational dispute resolution to get divorced

In most cases, it is no longer necessary to go to court to agree the details of your divorce, such as how to divide your finances or what will happen to your children. Increasingly, divorce law is focused around non-confrontational dispute resolution, allowing separating couples to agree the specifics of their divorce.

There are two main methods of non-confrontational divorce – mediation and collaborative law. Each has its advantages and may be appropriate in different circumstances.

Mediation for divorce – This involves parties meeting with a neutral mediator to discuss the issues and work together to agree a settlement. The mediator’s role is to guide the discussion and defuse any potential conflict, so the process stays productive.

Mediation is now the preferred route for resolving issues surrounding divorce and you will usually need to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM) to see whether mediation is suitable for you as a standard part of the divorce process. If you wish to take your divorce settlement to court, you will need a signed form from a certified mediator to show you have considered mediation first.

The exception to this is in cases where mediation would clearly not be suitable, such as where there has been domestic abuse or where one spouse now lives abroad.

Collaborative law – This involves a four way meeting between the two spouses and their respective lawyers (who must be trained in collaborative law). Again, the focus is on agreeing a settlement, but each party will have the benefit of their own expert legal representation. This can be a better choice where there are more complex issue, such as a jointly owned business, to sort out.

Why choose Crisp & Co for your divorce?

Crisp & Co’s specialist family law solicitors have been advising and representing clients with all issues related to divorce and separation for over 20 years. As family law is our sole focus, we have deep expertise in all of the issues surrounding divorce and family breakdown, including financial settlements and arrangements for children. We also have particular expertise in same sex marriages and civil partnerships.

Our approach is based around non-confrontational dispute resolution, including mediation and collaborative law. Our team includes several members of Resolution – a group of family lawyers committed to removing the conflict from family law – and trained collaborative lawyers.

This commitment to non-confrontational dispute resolution means we can usually help you get divorced faster and at lower expense while allowing you to maintain a better relationship with your former partner. This can help to make the divorce process as simply and stress-free as possible.

Get in touch with our divorce solicitors in London & South East England

For help starting or responding to divorce proceedings, working out a financial settlement or arrangements for children, or any other aspect of the divorce process, please get in touch.

You can contact our divorce solicitors in London and across the South East now by calling 020 8017 8962 or contacting your local Crisp & Co office.