Divorce basics – what you need to know about getting divorced

Person signing document

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

Want to speak to one of our specialists?

How do I separate and what’s involved in a divorce? Our divorce basics blog tells you everything you need to know.

There are two things that need to happen for you to separate; you must make arrangements for your children (if you have children) and you must agree what will happen with your finances. In addition, complete step 3 (filing the legal paperwork) if you are married and wish to legally divorce. Here is our divorce basics guide.

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 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

3. File the legal paperwork

File your divorce petition, apply for a Decree Nisi and then apply for a Decree Absolute. If you want to make your agreements legally binding you will also need to file a document called a consent order with your divorce paperwork.


1. First, make arrangements for your children

This is the most important thing you can do as it creates stability and a solid base for your kids 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-operative parenting or separate 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. Second, agree arrangements about 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
  • Make a budget for the future tailored to your responsibilities for the children and where they will be living
  • 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).
  • You can find guidance on what the law expects about splitting assets here

The legal process can take a long time (5-6 months). 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. 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 (forms D84 and D80) 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 and your Consent Order (which must be written by a solicitor) 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. Fill in and file form D36
  • You are legally divorced once you receive your Decree Absolute

We are here to help

Our friendly, expert divorce coaches will answer your questions and support you. Our app enables you to collect, share and communicate essential information with your ex so email us to get free help and support now.

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.

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