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Divorce FAQ


How long do I have to be married before I can get a divorce?

In English law you need to have been married for at least one year before you can apply for a divorce.

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What are the grounds for divorce?

The only ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage. You need to prove this breakdown by establishing one of the following 5 facts:

FACT A - Adultery
FACT B - Unreasonable behaviour
FACT C - Desertion for a period of at least two years
FACT D - Two years separation - with consent for the divorce
FACT E - Five years separation – consent for divorce not required

See our separate grounds for divorce page for a full explanation.

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Will I have to go to court?

contact usIn many cases you do not have to go to court in person. If the divorce is uncontested and you are able to reach agreement through your solicitors on finances and children, then a formal court hearing is unlikely to be necessary. It is possible to conclude the whole process as a paper exercise without ever seeing a Judge.

Court hearings most commonly arise when agreement cannot be reached on things such as child residence, child contact and financial settlements.

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How long does a divorce take?

For an uncontested divorce with no complications it usually takes between 4 and 6 months for a divorce to be finalised.

If the divorce is contested or agreement cannot be made on related matters then the process can take up to 12 months or possibly even longer.

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Does it matter which of us starts the divorce process?

In legal terms it should have no impact on the eventual outcome whoever starts the divorce process. However, in some circumstances it does make a difference who petitions for divorce.

There may be financial implications, for whoever files the petition will incur additional court costs. In some cases the costs of divorce can be shared between the parties.

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The petitioner has more control over how long the divorce process lasts because this depends on when they lodge certain papers with the court. A petitioner may, for instance, choose not to apply for a Decree Absolute (this is the final document which ends the marriage) until after the finances have been settled, especially if their spouse has a sizeable pension fund.

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What if my spouse refuses to get divorced?

It is common for someone to dispute the reasons stated for a divorce in the petition, for example adultery or unreasonable behaviour. In these circumstances this may cause a delay in the divorce process or it may mean that a suitable alternative reason has to be found which both parties can agree on.

If a spouse refuses to acknowledge paperwork sent by a petitioning spouse’s solicitor then this will also delay matters. In these cases we can arrange for your spouse to be personally served the divorce petition by a bailiff who can swear to this in court. If your spouse is still unresponsive then the courts can allow the divorce to proceed without your spouse’s consent.

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What about defended divorces?

Defended divorces are extremely rare as people recognise there is little point in trying to keep a marriage alive when the other spouse considers the relationship at an end. Defended divorces are stressful, time consuming and costly on both your emotions and your purse and are therefore generally discouraged.

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Does it make any difference whose fault the divorce is?

In the vast majority of cases it will not have any impact on the outcome of the divorce, financial settlement or arrangements for children. The courts are not in the business of punishing people for things such as adultery.

Only in cases of extreme behaviour such as violence to a spouse or children would it possibly affect the outcome.

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What is the divorce process?

This is a brief outline of the divorce process.

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  1. One party (the petitioner) files a divorce petition with the courts. The other party (the respondent) receives a copy of this. The respondent has to acknowledge receipt of the petition and say whether they plan to defend the divorce or not.
  2. If the divorce is not to be defended then a judge will decide whether a case has been made that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The judge will also ensure that satisfactory arrangements for children have been made at this point if applicable.
  3. If everything is in order the judge will set a date for a ‘decree nisi’. Six weeks after that date the petitioner can apply for a ‘decree absolute’. Once the decree absolute is granted then you are legally divorced (and are free to remarry).

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How much does a divorce cost?

The cost of a divorce will depend on the complexity of the issues involved including children and financial settlements.

See our web page which explains the cost of divorce.

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Our team of family solicitors comprises Resolution Accredited Specialists, Collaboratively trained lawyers and members of the Law Society's Children Panel.

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