This divorce checklist will help you if you're right at the beginning of the divorce/separation process, and if you don't have children together. Be sure to consider each step before kicking off the legal process of divorcing or ending your civil partnership.
1. Are you sure it’s over?
It’s important to be certain (before you go any further). Many relationships go through ups and downs. Before you commit to the legal and emotional journey of separating, read our piece on ‘Is it over, should I leave?’
2. Does your partner agree that it’s over?
If your partner is not aware you want to separate and you need some help to tell them, read our advice on breaking the news here. If you’ve told them and they resist, give them some time to adjust to the news before starting proceedings. If you rush your partner and they’re not ready, it’s likely they will dig their heels in, prolonging the process and potentially making it more expensive in the long run.
3. Have you been married for at least a year?
You can only file for divorce if you've been married / in your civil partnership for at least a year. If your answer is no, your options are to wait until it’s been a year or investigate applying for an annulment of your marriage. However, be warned, providing proof for an annulment is difficult.
4. Do you have an original copy of your marriage certificate?
You will need an original, certified copy that is in English. If you don’t have one, you can order another copy from the registry office or the government website or obtain a certified translation. If you were married outside of the UK, you should contact the authority where you got married.
5. Do you have a valid address for your ex?
The courts will need to send the divorce papers to your ex so make sure you have an address. If your ex doesn’t want to give their address, they can opt to keep this confidential from you by filling in another form with the government. If you have no idea where they are or they are still refusing to give you an address, then email us and we’ll send you over some other options.
6. Have you looked to check if you’re eligible for a discount on the government court fees to divorce?
To divorce in England and Wales, you need to pay £550 in court fees. However, it’s always worth checking if you or your ex are eligible for a discount or exemption. The person applying for the divorce has to make the application for the discount/exemption. Our divorce court fee calculator is free to use and will give you an idea of what you’ll have to pay.
7. Have you decided whether you will get someone to manage the process or will you do it yourself?
There are lots of options for finalising your divorce and they don’t all include getting two separate lawyers. Read our guidance on the different options to separate or book a call and we’ll talk you through them.
8. Have you chosen the legal reason you’ll use to file the divorce?
In England and Wales, you must choose one reason for the breakdown of the marriage. The reasons are:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation if you both agree
- Five years separation (different to the above as only one person has to agree to the divorce or dissolution)
9. Have you decided who will divorce who?
In order to divorce, one person needs to divorce the other. The person who is starting the divorce is called the ‘Petitioner’ and the person responding to the divorce papers is called the ‘Respondent’. In certain cases, it’s obvious who will divorce who, e.g. if one person has committed adultery. However, if you’re not sure, this decision can be tricky and affect the rest of the process. The questions below will help you decide who should start the divorce:
- Is one of you eligible for a discount on the court fees? You can only get the reduction on fees if this person is the Petitioner
- The Petitioner has three lots of paperwork to complete and send back to the court during the process, and the Respondent only has one – who is more likely to be on top of the paperwork?
- If you’re using unreasonable behaviour, you should consider who will essentially be ‘blamed’ for the breakdown of the marriage. This is a tricky one so please do read our tips on remaining amicable before you decide.
10. Are you agreed on how you will split your finances?
To be sure you’ve got everything covered, you must understand that ending your marriage doesn’t end your financial relationship. So, if you’ve decided on how you’re going to split things, that’s great, but the divorce doesn’t make those agreements legally binding. Even if you have nothing to split, you are still open to potential claims in the future even when/though you’re divorced. So consider if you’d like to legalise your financial split too. We recommend that you do to safeguard your financial future and that you sort this out at the same time as divorcing. For more help on financial arrangements, read our blog here. If you’ve got any questions or you’d like an amicable divorce, please get in touch.
If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.