Get a divorce: How to apply for a divorce guide UK
Step-by-step guide on how to apply for a divorce:
If you’re wondering how you go about applying for a divorce, read the simple steps in our guide below.
Starting the divorce or dissolution process can feel daunting. Understanding the divorce process can reduce stress and help you find the best route forward.
In this guide, we will take you through the entire process of applying for a divorce in England and Wales.
- For help getting divorced elsewhere in the UK, follow these steps:
- To get a divorce in Scotland read the Citizen’s Advice’s guide
- For advice on getting a divorce in Northern Ireland visit the government’s website.
In England and Wales, the legal steps necessary to get a divorce are identical to those required for dissolving a civil partnership. However, we’ve written a full guide on how to dissolve a civil partnership. The way in which you manage the process varies and we’ll explore the options available to you below.
How to get a divorce options:
You can apply for a divorce yourself using the government website. It costs £593 (the court fee) to get a divorce if you do it yourself through the government website. You can use our court fee calculator to check if you're entitled to a discount on the court fees. You will still need professional support to help you negotiate and legalise your financial separation. amicable offers a range of services to help you with your finances from a write-up service for couples who have agreed their finances, to a fully supported negotiation support where a more comprehensive service is required.
You can use amicable to get a divorce and we’re unique as we're able to help with everything, including financial and childcare arrangements. We make everything as simple as possible. Using amicable allows you to separate without lawyers and amicable is around more affordable than using solicitors and more comprehensive than mediation because we manage the legal process as well. Explore our services using our diagnostic tool or choose from our list of services here.
You can use a divorce solicitor or lawyer to get a divorce as well as any financial and childcare issues too. This option is most relevant where there are danger signs, and you need your own legal protection. The cost varies and this is a more expensive method to get a divorce. You can read our guide on how to apply for a divorce in the most cost-effective way.
A mediator is an independent, trained professional that helps you and your partner to work out agreements for children or finances. This option works if you and your ex can commuicate with each other. You need to be aware that you'll need to go elsewhere to get the legal side of separating sorted. Mediators normally charge from £100 an hour per person and most couples have between three and four sessions.
Going to court
Going to court to resolve any disputes around finances or children should be the last resort, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Going to court is usually the most expensive, acrimonious, and drawn-out option. It's estimated that the legal cost of going to court is around £40k per person in London and £13k per person outside of London. It can take approximately two years or more at times to finalise things through the court.
Family arbitration is a process whereby you and your partner appoint a fair and impartial legal specialist, called an arbitrator to make decisions about all or part of your financial and children’s arrangements when you apply for a divorce. The family arbitrator will produce a decision after hearing from each of you. They will give you both the opportunity to put forward your views on the unresolved issues. Family arbitration can be a good option if you have reached a sticking point that cannot be resolved as part of negotiation, mediation, or solicitor-led services.
What do you need before you can apply for a divorce?
- To be married / in a civil partnership for at least one year.
- Either you and/or your ex must live in England or Wales.
- An original/ certified copy of your marriage certificate, in English. For advice on getting a new copy or translated copy of your marriage certificate, see below. (If you've lost it, a new one can be ordered from the registrar where you married or from the government website. If your marriage certificate is not written in English, you will also need a certified translation, as well as the original copy of your marriage certificate.
- £593 to pay the government, see this as a submitting/ admin fee. You may also be entitled to a discount on the court fees, but this will depend on several factors.
To get a new or translated copy of your marriage certificate, click here.
Once you have these things to hand, the steps below will guide you through applying for a divorce in England and Wales.
Step one: Submit the application for divorce
Alternatively, if you would like help getting divorced, read our straightforward guide to the options available to you, or speak to one of our specialists today to discuss your personal situation and how amicable can help you.
You will have to decide whether you would like to make a sole application or a joint application. Be very careful to fill out each box as required – spell everything correctly and use the help print on the side of the divorce application or on the government website for help with this.
Paper divorce applications
For paper applications, make sure to pay the divorce court fee of £593 by enclosing a cheque or ticking the ‘pay by debit card box’. You may be eligible for a discount.
You can download a copy of the paper application to complete and post to the court. Instructions on where to post your application are given at the end of the form, depending on whether you want to pay the court fee by cheque or by credit/debit card.
Online divorce applications
If you are applying for a divorce through the government portal, you can pay at the end of the online form. However, your application won’t be submitted until you’ve paid the court fees. You can attach a scan or image of your marriage certificate. The court may ask you to post it as further proof.
Or, if you’re applying for a divorce through a joint application, follow these steps:
- Applicant 1 completes the divorce form
- Applicant 2 checks the divorce form
- Applicant 1 submits the form
Speak to a Divorce Specialist
If you would like help with your divorce application, you can book a free 15-minute call with an amicable expert.
Our Divorce Specialists can help you understand the process of applying for divorce, how long it may take, how much divorce can cost and what your options are.
Once the court has processed your divorce/ dissolution application, you will receive the notice of issue – either by email (for the online system) or in the post for the paper route. The date your divorce is ‘issued’ by the court, is the date your 20-week reflection period starts.
When you have confirmation that your divorce has been issued, your ex will be sent a copy of the divorce application and the acknowledgment of service.
Step two: The acknowledgement of service (for the sole application)
The acknowledgement of service form (AOS) needs to be completed by the other person. If you applied for a divorce by post, your ex-partner will have received all the paperwork in the mail and will need to complete the AOS form. Once they’re done that, your ex will need to send it back to the court.
If you’ve chosen the online route, your ex will be sent a letter with login details for them to acknowledge receipt of the divorce application online.
If they haven’t received the application or you haven’t heard anything from the courts, you should ring the court helpline on 0300 303 0642. You may need to serve papers to ensure your ex receives them.
Step three: Apply for your conditional order
There is a mandatory reflection period built into the divorce process. You must wait 20-weeks after your divorce application has been issued by the court before you can proceed to the next stage.
You can apply for your conditional order if:
- You’ve made a joint application
- You’ve made a sole application and your ex has returned the AOS
- The court has ordered that your ex has received the divorce application
If you’ve applied for a divorce via paper, you can download and print-off the relevant forms from the government website.
If you are using the government's online system – you will be asked to fill out the conditional order application online.
This is when a judge will review your application and confirm you are entitled to get a divorce. If the judge agrees the relationship has broken down and is past the point of repair, you will both receive a ‘conditional order pronouncement date’. And after that, a conditional order certificate confirming you are entitled to a divorce.
It’s important to ensure your application does not have errors as this will cause delays.
Step four: Apply for a consent order (optional)
If you’re getting divorced and would like to sort out your finances, you should submit a consent order. A consent order formalises how you both plan to split your finances (assets, debts, income etc). It’s a good idea to have one if you have assets to split and want to make sure any agreement you come to is legally binding. amicable offer a consent order drafting service, to help you with this stage of the divorce process.
Step five: Apply for your final order
Six weeks and one day after the conditional order pronouncement date, applicant one can apply for the final order which is the last stage of the submitting for divorce process. If you have made a joint application for divorce, then applicant two must check this before it is submitted to court.
Once you receive your final order certificate – you are officially divorced. Keep the paperwork safe and start your new chapter.
amicable's top tips when submitting for divorce:
Where possible, make sure your partner agrees before you apply for a divorce. If they don't agree and aren't willing to cooperate, it can slow down proceedings.
Seek advice if you are unsure about how to apply for a divorce. Do your research before sending off the paperwork and ask for help if you think you might fill it in incorrectly.
Use the reflection period to sort out your financial and children arrangements. amicable have lots of services to help you with this.
Did you know you/your ex can still make a financial claim in the future even though you’re divorced? Decide if you want to make your financial split legally binding through a consent order. A consent order will put an end to any future claims.
Online divorces tend to go through more quickly than paper divorces. However, if there are any complications in the divorce, you may only be able to go down the paper route.
How long does it take to get divorced?
It depends. For a more detailed answer, we've created a guide for how long a divorce takes with tips on how to speed the process up.
On average, it takes a minimum of six months for all of the divorce paperwork to be completed and your divorce made legally binding through the courts. You can download our bespoke divorce timeline to estimate the end date of your process.
Ending your financial relationship and the possibility of future claims
It’s very important that you’re aware that ending your marriage or civil partnership through the courts does not end your financial relationship. As mentioned above, if you want or need to legalise your arrangements and end your financial claims you’ll need to get a consent order.
A consent order (sometimes called a financial order) is a completely different legal process that can be completed either as you divorce (generally the best option) or after.
What is the first thing to do when getting a divorce?
The first thing you must do to submit for divorce is decide whether you will apply together or alone, and then submit the divorce application. You have to pay the court fee and have a copy of your original marriage certificate.
How do you get a divorce without a solicitor UK?
You can get a divorce using the government website, or through an online service like amicable. amicable handle all the divorce paperwork so you can focus on what really matters to you. Read more about getting divorced without using divorce lawyers here.
How much does a divorce cost in the UK in 2021?
The cost of divorce varies, depending on the method used. If you are having a DIY divorce, the most it will cost is the initial £593 court fee (unless you are exempt). We have written a helpful guide on the cost of divorce/ dissolution and how to keep the costs down.
Is it better to submit for divorce or be served?
It doesn’t usually matter, however, with the introduction of no-fault divorce you can now apply for divorce together.
Is the process to get a divorce in England or Wales different to getting a divorce in Scotland or Ireland?
Yes, the process to get a divorce can vary between England and Wales on one hand, and Scotland and Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) on the other. Each jurisdiction has its own legal systems and procedures for divorce. Although we cannot give out specific legal advice, you can book a free 15-minute call to speak with one of our Divorce Specialists, so that we can better understand your situation.
Can amicable help me get divorced in Scotland or Ireland?
amicable does not currently offer divorce services in Scotland and/or Ireland or Northern Ireland. Only England and Wales.
How long do you have to be separated before divorce is automatic?
When a couple goes through a divorce, the financial side of separating and legalising what has been agreed is sometimes called a divorce financial settlement.
Use our diagnostic tool to find the best option for you and your family.
If you’re struggling with your divorce negotiations, we’ve provided below our top negotiation tips to help you settle your divorce yourselves.