Basic divorce guide - what you need to know about getting divorced

Divorce basics – what you need to know about getting divorced

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Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 10:20 AM

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 and when to do:

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 financial disclosure.

File your divorce (or dissolution) petition, apply for a decree nisi (or conditional order), submit a consent order (this is optional but strongly recommended) and finally apply for a decree absolute (or final order for dissolutions). 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.

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.

amicable co-parenting app:

The amicable co-parenting app is designed to help parents transition to co-parents. The app combines all essential elements of co-parenting in one secure place. The co-parenting calendar enables you to schedule shared and private events, to help keep organised and avoid confusion. You can message your ex securely via the messaging function and you can set shared and private goals to keep your children on track whilst you parent apart.

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.

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 you are looking at around 4-5 months for your divorce to be finalised, although this timeline will likely change with the introduction of ‘no-fault divorce’ in April 2022.

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 should not file for 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:

  • Complete and file your divorce petition, form D8. We don’t have ‘no-fault divorce’ in this country so you have to choose one of the following reasons for the marriage breakdown:

    • Two years separation if you both agree
    • Five years separation if only one of you agrees
    • Adultery
    • Desertion or
    • Unreasonable behaviour

  • The court sends the petition to your partner – along with an ‘acknowledgement of service form’, for them to return. If they don’t, the process continues automatically after two weeks
  • Complete and file your decree nisi application detailing the reason you have chosen for the divorce
  • The court considers whether the marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’. If accepted the date 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 forms, D81 and Form A. File these forms with your consent order (which must be written by a legal professional such as amicable) to the court at this time
  • If the judge has questions about your settlement you may be asked to attend a hearing
  • After 6 weeks and one day you can apply for your decree absolute, however, 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 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



What are the five stages of divorce?

In terms of the divorce paperwork, there are five key stages: the petition, the acknowledgement of service, decree nisi, a consent order (optional), the decree absolute.

What do I need to know before divorce?

You will need to sort out three things if you plan on getting divorced: your childcare arrangements, any financial arrangements and the legal paperwork.

Is there a disadvantage to filing for divorce first?

This depends on your situation. One disadvantage might be that when you file your divorce petition, you will need to pay your court fees (£593), unless you are exempt or eligible for a discount. Whilst you can include a cost sharing order in the petition, you will have to wait for a judge to grant it.

At amicable you are able to spread cost of our services and choose to split the cost between you and your ex.

Emma Robinson
Emma Robinson
Having experienced her own protracted and expensive divorce, Emma has spent the past 5 years working as a Divorce Mentor. Emma works with divorcing couples to find a pragmatic approach, thereby minimising conflict and costs.


Can I get a divorce even though we have been married less than two years. ??

posted Nigel Fuller at 06.02.2019 19:34

We are in our 60's, no minor kids. He wants to give me house and keep everything else: Retirement accnt, military retirement and SS. I would like to file on him now. He left home in June 2019 and living in Clarkson, WA. Not sure how to get ball rolling. Thanks for your help.

posted Janet at 08.09.2019 20:58

No children in my devoice only a house which we’re putting on the market now the ex is been difficult dictating everything I hope my devoice can go through smoothly

posted Drew at 30.06.2020 1:09

Divorced but need help with clean break

posted Hassan at 17.07.2020 0:16

I have been separated from my wife for over ten years She committed adultery Do I still need to go through the hole court thing? Is there a fast track way in cases like mine?

posted Peter at 01.08.2021 15:30

Hi Peter, unfortunately, there is no way to fast track cases like this, and as the adultery was discovered over a year ago, you can't use this as your grounds for divorce. However, you could use five years separation, give us a ring and we'll be able to give you some more assistance.

posted Holly from amicable at 13.08.2021 14:14

We have 2 kids . He has committed adultery numerous times. He has never worked just because he is just lazy. His only job in the house was our youngest childcare but that too he is not doing I’m constantly looking for childcare whilst working full time . He has a habit of not coming home for days and then suddenly just turns up to act like a normal parent again. Few days go by and he disappears again. I struggle with all the bills and he sleeps like a baby. How do I divorce him and make him move out our house permanently considering he has left me over 6-7 times for months and then just comes back. When I’ve asked him to move out he totally refuses and I’m afraid that is going to be the most difficult part. The house is in my name and I pay the mortgage. Please help me I’m so unhappy.

posted Sandra at 17.10.2021 5:54

Hi Sandra, I'm sorry to hear you're struggling. You can use 'adultery' as your fact to support that your marriage has broken down, however, he will have to admit to this when he responds to the petition. Failing this, you can use unreasonable behaviour. No-fault divorce is being implemented in April 2022, so you can also wait for this if you wish, and this will mean that you won't need to use a fact to support that the marriage has broken down. It will also be difficult for people to contest divorces. In terms of your finances, if you want to formalise any financial agreements you come to you will need to either submit a consent order (which he would have to agree to and sign) or apply to the court for a financial order, where you ask the court to decide upon your finances. The second option can be costly. Give us a ring to discuss your personal situation in more detail.

posted Holly from amicable at 20.10.2021 9:11