I’m frequently asked the question, how long does it take to get a divorce? The simple answer is many months. I imagine if you’re the instigator of the divorce this isn’t what you want to hear.
If you’ve moved on or even booked the ‘next’ wedding as one of our customers last week had, then the court process is slow and frustrating.
In this blog, I set out the divorce process and , the typical time it takes to divorce in the UK and some tips for speeding your divorce up.
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How long does a divorce take from start to finish?
On average, it takes four to six months for a divorce or dissolution to be finalised through the courts in England and Wales. Some companies advertise fast-track services that promise you can get a divorce in 12 weeks.
The reality is a divorce in the UK takes a long time. There are no "divorce quick schemes".
If you are going to get a consent order (your financial settlement) at the same time as divorcing, the average time it takes to get a divorce and finalise your financial split extends to six - twelve months.
So, how long does it take to divorce? If you're lucky and everything goes smoothly, four months. This timeline will extend depending on the complexity of your divorce.
You can have a look at our divorce timeline. It’s a quick questionnaire and we'll send a rough estimate of how long your divorce take may take.
See our blog on what is a consent order for more information on this part of the process.
What You Need To Know Before You Start The Divorce Process
You need to be married 12 months
The minimum length of time you must be married for before you can get divorced is one year.
If you’ve been married for under a year, you can have your divorce petition drafted and ready to send, but you cannot submit it until a year after your marriage date.
The other option is to annul your marriage, however this is hard to do. Find out more about how to annul your marriage via the government website here.
Decide on a parenting plan if you have children
We also provide co-parenting services that can help you decide on plans and decisions for your children. You might want to think about where your kids are going to live, plan and think about how they'll see you and your ex. Remember that children deal with separations differently from adults, and we take into account the age and stage of children.
Figure out your finances and assets
Deciding and sorting out finance and assets is a difficult process and we can help. You're going to need to think about how to divide your personal properties, divide assets, invest and save. Make a plan on how to pay divorce fees.
Think about who you need to tell
You're going to have to organise who to tell you about your divorce or separation. These people may include your mortgage lender, banks or building societies, home insurers, dentist, GP surgery, and many more.
7 steps for a faster divorce:
Step one: Prepare emotionally
The most noteworthy point to start with is to take time to emotionally prepare as this is the biggest predictor of how long it takes to get divorced.
Prepared couples divorce more quickly and more amicably.
If you are not starting the divorce, you’ll probably need time to adjust to the end of the marriage.
Getting control of your emotions before starting divorce proceedings and adopting a business-like approach will help speed up negotiations. Rushing will make the divorce take longer, so why not watch our short video on emotional preparation here.
If you want to file the divorce petition, don’t rush your partner, instead, take time to invest in the emotional preparation stage. Getting a divorce is a big life change, our advice is to allow them time to get used to fact that the marriage is over and get advice and coaching if needed.
The below chart demonstrates the typical stages someone may go through during the divorce process.
There is this view many people have of divorces being bitter and all about fights over money, possessions and even the raising of any children that resulted from the marriage. While this is true of many, not all divorces have to be like that.
Particularly if children are involved, an uncontested divorce may be the best decision to ensure that there is as little bitterness and that you and your partner can continue co-parenting your children together, albeit living separately.
Step two: Agreeing your children and financial arrangements
This is usually the bit that takes most the time. If you’ve already agreed on things you can move on to getting your divorced processed through the court.
If not, you’ll need to make a list of your finances and agree on what’s going to happen to your assets in the future.
You’ll also need to agree where the children will live and how you’ll take care of them. This can be tough and consequently many people seek help from our divorce coaches.
You can start the divorce process before you’ve finalised your arrangements and so use the time it takes the court to process your divorce to negotiate a settlement.
Step three: Filing your divorce petition (approx. six weeks)
First of all, you’ll need to fill in and file your divorce petition with the court. You will need to choose one of the five reasons that the government currently allow to prove that the marriage has broken down past the point of return.
The grounds for divorce you can use are two years separation, five years separation, adultery, desertion or behaviour.
You will also need a copy of your marriage certificate to start the application along with an address for your ex. For advice on starting the divorce process, click here.
Although two years separation is known as the most amicable reason to use in the divorce petition, it means slowing down and waiting for that time to pass for some couples.
So, if speed is important to you, look into one of the other reasons that will allow you to file for the divorce sooner (this is usually behaviour).
For tips on remaining amicable if you're using unreasonable behaviour, click here. There may also be financial and tax implications to delaying divorce proceedings.
The court will send a copy of the divorce petition to your (ex)-partner. Your ex then completes and returns the acknowledgement of service form and the court sends you a case number.
Tip 1. Encourage your partner to return the acknowledgement of service form rather than wait. If they don’t, the divorce will progress after 21 days so more slowly.
Step four: Applying for your decree nisi (approx. 8 weeks)
A judge will consider whether the marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’ and if you can get a divorce or not.
If a judge is satisfied that it has, your decree nisi will be pronounced a few weeks later and you’ll both receive a decree nisi certificate from the court.
You will then have to wait six weeks and one day after your decree nisi pronouncement date in order to proceed with the next stage of the divorce.
Tip 2. Apply immediately after the 21 days have passed if your ex hasn't returned the acknowledgement of service form.
Step five: Filing a consent order (at the same time as the decree nisi application)
In addition to applying for your decree nisi, you can choose to file a consent order with your divorce paperwork.
A Consent Order makes your agreements legally binding and it is therefore the only way of having a clean break between you and so stopping future claims. (Did you know that you are still technically financially tied to each other even if your divorce is official until you have completed the consent order process through the court?).
Tip 3. Have a Consent Order as it provides peace of mind that you have finalised your arrangements. Avoid any nasty surprises in future.
Our blog What is a Decree Nisi? Discusses this in more detail.
Step six: Applying for decree absolute (six weeks and one day after your decree nisi is received)
See our blog What is a Decree Absolute? for more information.
Six weeks and one day after your decree nisi is pronounced you can apply for a decree absolute. This is the final piece of paperwork in the divorce process.
Tip 4. It's often safer and 'tidier' to get your consent order sealed by the courts before filing for your decree absolute.
Step seven: Your divorce is finalised (approx. two weeks)
Finally, you and your ex-partner will receive the decree absolute certificate (usually takes two to three weeks to arrive once you have applied for the decree absolute). Your divorce is now official and the process is finalised.
For a more bespoke estimate of how long your divorce may take. You only need to answer a few simple questions and to provide your email address so we can send you your divorce timeline straight into your inbox.
If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.
How to speed up your divorce
Getting a divorce takes time and the process of obtaining your decree absolute (the certificate that makes your divorce legal) takes longer than people expect.
However, there are a few ways that you can do to make the divorce process run smoothly and quickly. Our quick divorce blog provides advice and information on common myths around speedy divorces along with advice and guidance on making the process faster.
How quick can you get a divorce if both parties agree?
It takes between four and six months for the average divorce to move through the courts. However, if both parties agree, you can make decisions and file the necessary legal paperwork much quicker than a contested divorce.
Where do I start with my divorce?
It is first worth agreeing with your partner on the route you would like to take, coming to childcare and financial arrangements and preparing the necessary paperwork.
If you need assistance with this, please complete our divorce diagnostic, to help you understand the amicable service that is best for you.
Find out more information by reading our guide on how to file for divorce.
Has coronavirus slowed down the divorce process?
The reality is when the country was in full lockdown, the courts were operating with a reduced team so the processing of divorce documents took longer.
However, this delay was temporary and the courts are now dealing with divorce petitions as normal.
How long does an online divorce take?
As the divorce process is a fundamentally fixed legal process, which takes between four and six months to move through the courts, an online divorce will not be in and of itself quicker. However an online divorce with amicable can help you separate amicably and come to agreement quicker than the traditional divorce process. Find out more about divorcing without lawyers.
Can you get divorced in a day?
In the UK, it isn’t possible to get divorced in a day due to the length of the court process. The usual court divorce process takes between four and six months.