How to get a divorce
Updated: Mar 31
Making the decision to leave your husband or wife can be daunting, but if you're also unsure of the process as well, the whole thing might feel quite overwhelming too.
Below you’ll see The Divorce Partner's guide on how to get a divorce – what the grounds are, what it can cost, and how the process works.
The actual divorce, is purely an administrative process. You don’t necessarily need a solicitor in order to do this as you can do it yourself, but it is helpful to have support. It can also make the process much easier to work with someone who is experienced in the process from start to finish.
This can come from a solicitor, or from a divorce consultant.
The complications in divorce come from the issues that can arise as part of it – money, children, property etc.
The more collaborative and amicable you can be, the less expensive it will be.
The Divorce Partner works with clients to support where there’s the raw emotion in the process getting in the way. I help my clients understand the emotional stages that they can expect, both for themselves and for their ex, and this can significantly reduce conflict – and ultimately cost. In my experience, I have found that without this kind of support, there can be letters back and forth via solicitors for months and into years…not actually getting to any resolution.I help my clients to step back from the immediate “fire” and to see the bigger picture. I also help to “negotiate” rather than drive conflict. It’s about picking your battles and not fighting over the unimportant things, it’ll only cost you money. I work either just with my clients, or as part of a team with solicitors too, whatever is best for each client.
This is the form that you fill in to file for your divorce. It can be found on the internet. If you are filling this form in, you are the petitioner. Your ex husband or wife is the respondent.
You don’t have to notify your ex husband or wife, but you will have to fill in the grounds for divorce on the form, and it helps if you are in agreement on why your marriage has broken down.
Grounds for Divorce
The only grounds for divorce are that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
To demonstrate that this has happened, you need to put your marriage breakdown into one of five categories:
Can be used where your ex has gone off with someone else (heterosexual marriages only currently – law not reformed since the 70’s). In the case of an adultery petition, the other person has to formally admit on a response form to the court that they’ve committed adultery. If you aren’t sure that they will admit it, then don’t go down this route. You can use ‘unreasonable behaviour’ instead.
2. Unreasonable behaviour
Most commonly used in the UK, and can cover anything. For example, “he doesn’t socialise with me”, “she doesn’t make any effort around the house”, “he doesn’t speak to my family”. You can also use the 'unreasonable behaviour' grounds where the relationship has involved domestic abuse. The form requires a few lines of what has happened and why this means that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You need to add specific examples to show a general pattern of behaviour. Unlike with adultery, the person on the receiving end (the respondent) doesn’t have to formally admit to this.
A legal term that is not used by anyone. Gov.UK describes ‘desertion’ as this:
Your husband or wife has left you:
· without your agreement
· without a good reason
· to end your relationship
· for more than 2 years in the past 2.5 years
You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months in this period.
4. and 5. Separation
There are two options for separation grounds. The first applies if "you’ve lived separately in separate homes (sometimes people can do this if they’ve been under the same roof but it’s hard to do) physically apart for two years. This requires the other person’s agreement. The second is if you’ve lived apart for five years, and doesn’t require the other person’s agreement.
Filing the petition
Once your petition is filled in, you need to send it to the court with the following:
original marriage certificate or an official copy (from the local registrar)
Court Fee* (currently £550)
*The petitioner has to pay that but people often agree to share the costs.
What happens next
Once the divorce petition is sent off to the court, your husband or wife will get a copy of it in the post, and will therefore know what you’ve said. The respondent (person on the receiving end of the divorce) then has to send back an acknowledgement form confirming they’ve had the papers. They also need to state whether they’re going to defend against the grounds you have claimed and they need to do this within seven days.
Most divorces are undefended and go through without any dispute. The court then sends a copy of their acknowledgement to the petitioner. The petitioner then has to fill in another form to apply for the 'decree nisi'. This is derived from Latin days, and is essentially the point where the court acknowledges that the forms are filled in correctly, you’ve got sufficient grounds, and they agree it can go ahead. The law says the decree nisi has to be pronounced in open court. You don’t have to attend, no-one does.
Once your decree nisi is pronounced, after six weeks and a day, if you’re the petitioner, you can apply for the 'decree absolute'. This is when your marriage is dissolved, and you get the piece of paper confirming this. The six weeks and a day is essentially a cooling off period in case you change your mind.
How long will the process take?
The process to dissolve a marriage used to take 3-4 months, but it takes 5-6 months now. This is assuming no dispute/challenge/errors etc. This is purely the administrative part, and not any financial or family matter resolution.
How much will it cost?
Totally dependent on individual situation.
But, on top of the £550 court fee (non negotiable), there could be solicitors or divorce consultant fees.
Solicitors tend to change £150-£300 per hour plus VAT, and there will be several hours of work involved – some of which is admin related in getting information from clients.
Divorce consultant fees vary but can start at approximately half the hourly rate of other resources.
A divorce consultant will work with you to get all information together up front, and then get the forms filled in with you very quickly and accurately. This can save you significant time, effort, and money.
Bear in mind that this is only dissolving the marriage – the admin side of things. The expensive part of it that can run into tens of thousands in some cases is where there is a disagreement on finances and children.
Most family solicitors operate on hourly rates, and bill in 6-minute blocks of time. Sometimes, when you just have a quick question, you don’t necessarily need to speak to a solicitor, but most do as this is their only choice. Generally, emails, phone calls, letters, and meetings will all contribute towards your billing with a solicitor.
Sorting out the financials
The Divorce petition asks if you want to make a financial claim and you tick this box. At this stage, you may not know what you will be doing financially between you, but it’s important to tick this box.
The process we use in the UK to sort out financials between divorcing parties is financial disclosure which means that before you start even considering how you’re going to divide things up, you both need to be open and honest and provide information about your finances. This tends to be done in parallel to the divorce petition.
You can agree between you how to divide your finances, without full disclosure, and sign a disclaimer, but it’s important to get a legally binding consent order stamped by the court to ensure that neither party has a future claim on the other.
Will you have to talk to your ex throughout the process?
No – but it can help if you can.
As I've said, collaboration can lead to a quicker, more amicable, and cheaper divorce. It’s also critical where there are children involved to be able to communicate with your ex. You are both their parents, and will be for all of their lives. Maintaining some kind of relationship will benefit everyone in this situation, if it is possible.
Obviously, this is not always possible, and there are ways to deal with this.
Getting through it as quickly and painlessly as possible
Be clear on the options and choices available to you
Gain clarity on the process up front
Speak to a divorce consultant before a solicitor to be prepared for the process (emotionally and practically) – and you may choose not to use a solicitor at all
Focus on what’s important – keep perspective
Try and maintain communication between the parties
Don’t use your children or money as weapons against each other
Look after yourself – mentally and physically
Call Emily at The Divorce Partner on 07814009408, or email on firstname.lastname@example.org if you need help or just to talk things through.