The divorce process in England and Wales explained

06 April 2022

There are a number of steps to the divorce process in England and Wales. We explain these steps without using legal jargon, including how long it usually takes to get divorced or dissolve a civil partnership.

Divorce law was reformed on 6 April 2022. This article covers the new process.

For more information on what changed under the divorce law reforms, see no fault divorce - UK divorce law reforms explained.

Step 1 - the application

The divorce or civil partnership dissolution process starts with an application to the family court, which will need to state that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.

The application can either be made by one person, or the couple can make the application jointly. If one person makes the application, they are called the applicant and the other person is called the respondent.

When using our fixed fee divorce service your divorce lawyer will complete the divorce application for you, then send it for you to sign.

Once completed, the divorce application is submitted to the court, along with the original marriage or civil partnership certificate. If the original certificate can't be found then a copy can be requested from the Register of Births and Deaths for a small fee.

The court will then issue the application which means that they allocate it a court reference number. The divorce application is then sent by the court to the other person in the marriage (if it's not a joint application). This person is called the respondent.

Step 2 - the acknowledgement of service

After the respondent has received the application, they have 14 days to respond to the divorce. This is done by filling in and returning the acknowledgement of service form to the court.

The acknowledgement of service tells the court that the respondent has received the divorce application.

When the court receives the signed acknowledgement of service from the respondent, they will forward this to the applicant.

Step 3 - the conditional order

After the signed acknowledgement of service has been received and 20 weeks have passed since the application was submitted to the court, the conditional order can be requested. This is not the final order in a divorce, but it is an important step.

After the conditional order has been granted by the court and once a further 6 weeks and 1 day period has passed since the conditional order was made, the final order can be applied for.

Step 4 - the final order

Once the final order has been issued the divorce or civil partnership dissolution is final and the marriage, or civil partnership, has legally ended. Both people are then free to enter into a new marriage or civil partnership.

How long does a divorce take?

Divorce courts in England and Wales are currently taking anywhere between 6 to 12 months from drafting a divorce application to receiving the final order.

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