How do I separate and what’s involved in a divorce/dissolution? Our divorce basics guide tells you various things you should know about divorce.
There are three main things you should consider when getting a divorce or dissolving your civil partnership. You will need to; make arrangements for your children (if you have children), agree what will happen with your finances, and finally, you will need to file the legal paperwork.
Divorce - what you need to know
1. Make arrangements for your children
The first and most important thing to agree is where your children will live, how they will see both of you, who will pay for what and how you will raise them. This is called a Parenting Plan.
2. Make arrangements about your finances
Next, agree on what will happen to your home, where you will live in future and also what money, assets and debts you have to divide. This is called a consent order or financial disclosure.
3. File the legal paperwork
File your divorce (or dissolution) application, apply for a Conditinal Order (formerly known as Decree Nisi), submit a consent order (this is optional but strongly recommended) and finally apply for a Final Order (formerly known as Decree Absolute). If you want to make your financial agreements legally binding you will also need to file a consent order with your divorce paperwork.
If you want to formalise your agreements prior to your divorce, you can have a separation agreement that outlines what you plan on splitting once you have separated.
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Divorce basics guide: what you need to know
1. Make arrangements for your children
Agreeing on childcare arrangements is the most important thing you can do, as it creates stability and a solid base for your children to adjust to changes. By doing this first you ensure your financial decisions fit with what is best for your kids.
These are the divorce basics for making arrangements about your children:
- Parenting principles – co-parenting or parallel parenting, will you work as a parenting team or as individuals?
- Where the children are going to live? Mainly with you, mainly with your partner or a shared care arrangement alternating between both parents (depending on the age of the children, financial and practical implications)
- Arrangements for Christmas, birthdays, holidays and other special occasions
- Decisions about schooling – day to day arrangements and relationships as well as longer-term choices about secondary schooling, exam or university choices
- How you’ll communicate with each other make decisions about bringing them up in future and what they each need to be happy, thriving children
- What and when you tell your children about your divorce depends on many factors. Our guide to ‘Telling the kids’, can be found here.
2. Agree on arrangements about your finances
Another essential thing you should know about divorce is what you plan on doing with your finances. You need to make a list of all your assets and debts to decide how to split them (‘financial disclosure)’. Even if you are doing things informally, legally you need to ensure your disclosure is an accurate reflection of everything you own or owe. Inaccuracies can lead to your settlement being overturned, sometimes years later.
These are the ‘finances’ divorce basics:
- List all your assets and debts (what you own and owe)
- Include evidence with your disclosure (copies of bank statements, mortgage redemption certificates, pension CETVs etc. Some information like pensions can take three months to come, so make sure you write off for this early on
- Some information like pensions can take three months to come, so make sure you write off for this early on
- When you’ve documented your finances, you can start to make proposals about how to split your assets and debts. Include what support you need to give to or receive from your partner to be able to live in future (maintenance).
For further guidance read our consent and financial orders guide.
3. File your legal paperwork
The legal process can take a long time and this will depend on whether you are planning on applying for a consent order (also known as a financial order). If you are aren’t then your divorce will take a minimum of six months to be finalised, due to the reflection period built into the No-fault system (as of the 6th of April 2022). Divorces issued before No-fault will take around three to six months to complete.
If you are planning on splitting your finances and formalising your financial arrangements via a consent order, some people choose to start filing before finalising their agreements. You can do this to keep the process moving, but it is not advised that you file for the Final Order (formerly the Decree Absolute) until you have reached a settlement that has been sealed by a judge.
These are the divorce basics for filing paperwork at court:
Choose whether you are making a joint or sole application for divorce and complete the relevant paperwork. This can be done online or via the post.
If you made a sole application, the court sends the issued divorce application to your partner – along with an ‘acknowledgement of service form’, for them to return. If they don’t, the process may be delayed.
*There is a mandatory 20-week reflection period built into the process, starting from the date the divorce application is issued.
Once the 20-week reflection period has elapsed (and if your ex has returned the paperwork for sole journeys), you can file your Conditional Order application. This was formely known as the Decree Nisi application for divorces issued before the introduction of No-fault divorce on the 6th of April 2022. A Judge then reviews this application and confirms whether or not your the marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’. If accepted the date the Conditional Order (Decree Nisi) is pronounced will be confirmed. You will not have to attend court unless there is an issue over costs.
If you are choosing a consent order to make agreements about finances/children legally binding you must complete the relevant legal forms. You can get help with this process by using a legal service like amicable.
If the judge has questions about your settlement you may be asked to attend a hearing
After six weeks and one day you can apply for your Final Order (formely the Decree Absolute), however, it is advised that you should wait until your consent order has been sealed by the judge and the transfer period of 28 days has passed (if you have a pension sharing order).
You are legally divorced once you receive your (Final Order) Decree Absolute certificate.
Where can you find help?
amicable can help with some, or all of the above steps, including assisting with the divorce paperwork, helping you to sort out your finances and your childcare arrangements. We keep the family unit as the central consideration ensuring you can build a new life post-separation