How long does it take to get divorced?

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Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 11:20 AM

I’m frequently asked the question, how long does it take to get divorced? 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. Some companies advertise fast-track services that promise a divorce in 12 weeks. The reality is the UK court system is far slower than that and so average processing times run between 20-22 weeks. In this blog, I set out the divorce process, the typical time it takes and some tips for speeding things up.

You need to be married 12 months

Firstly, 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 petition drafted and ready to send, but you cannot submit it until a year after your marriage date.

Step one: Prepare emotionally

The most noteworthy point to start with is emotional preparation 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. Getting control of your emotions and adopting a business-like approach will help speed up negotiations. Rushing delays things, so why not watch our short video on emotional preparation here. If you’re kicking things off, then don’t rush your partner, instead, invest time in the emotional preparation stage and get coaching or support if needed. The below chart demonstrates the typical stages someone may go through during the divorce process.


Step two: Agreeing your children and financial arrangements

This is usually the bit that takes most time. If you’ve already agreed 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 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 processing before you’ve finalised your arraignments and so use the time it takes the court to process your divorce to negotiate a settlement.

Step three: Filing your divorce petition (approx. 6 weeks)

First of all, you’ll need to fill in and file your petition with the court. The court will send it to your (ex)-partner. Your ex 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’. 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.

Tip 2. Apply immediately after the 21 days have passed if your ex has not returned the acknowledgement of service form.

Step five: Filing a consent order (At same time as Nisi application)

In addition to the above, 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.

Tip 3. Have a Consent Order as it provides peace of mind that you have finalised your arrangements. Avoid any nasty surprises in future.

Step six: Applying for Decree Absolute (6 weeks and one day after Nisi is received)

Six weeks and one day after Nisi is pronounced you can apply for a Decree Absolute. This is the final piece of paper you need to be divorced.

Step seven: Your divorce is finalised (approx. 2 weeks)

Finally, you will receive the Decree Absolute certificate when you are legally divorced and the process is finalised. You’re now legally divorced and so free to re-marry if you wish.

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

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About the author

Hannah Hodgkinson is Head of Marketing at amicable. Hannah has over six years experience working for global NGOs and private consultancies and has a passion for marketing for companies with a social purpose


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My parter isn’t contesting his divorce had to say if he was say either way before the 10th of march and he’s still waiting for his divorce. Who am we. Contact
We offer free telephone help so please call one of our divorces on 07710 595 422 and they will be able to talk through your situation
You say it takes 2weeks at step 7, but how long can you expect to wait for the courts to process the decree absolute? Amicable divorce with a separation agreement and consent order.
Hi Jay, all courts are different but our experience across England is that it’s usually 2-3 weeks.
How long does it take to hear from the court. When an application to dispense with service is made to court
Hi there Miss Mehi, it usually takes around two to three weeks. Please let us know if you have any other questions.
Once the acknowledgement of service has been returned, how long do I have before I can no longer apply for a decree nisi?
Hi Chris – you will always be able to apply for the Decree Nisi once the acknowledgment of service has been received with the court, unless you formally withdraw the application. I hope this is helpful, please call us on 0203 004 4695 if you have any other questions.
Got my date for my decree nisi to be granted in court,my x had agreed to the divorce originally can he change his mind at this stage or am i safe??
Hi Hayley – thanks for getting in touch. Once you have your Decree Nisi the judge has given you permission to get divorced. However, you are not actually divorced until you have the final piece of paper, the Decree Absolute (which you can apply for in six weeks and one day from the date of your Nisi). To be ‘safe’ you will need to wait for the absolute… The risk of anything going wrong is low at this stage but not absent.
At what point will the court confirm that HWF has been recognised and advise of any charges
Hi Lynne – on average it takes the courts around 10 days to process divorce petitions, however, be warned, different courts have different processing times so this can be a lot longer! Once the court processes your divorce papers they will let you know by letter if you have to pay anything.
Hello, Am going currently through an amicable divorce process between me and ex…we had both agreed to go our seperate ways and move on with our lives, after living apart for up to 5years, with the support of our two grown up children. Our decree nisi has gone through, we are waiting to apply for decree absolute soon. My question is how long do we have to wait before the decree absolute is issue after our application? Your advice will be very helpful. Thanks.
Hi, thanks for getting in touch… You have to wait 6 weeks and 1 day from the pronouncement date of the Decree Nisi before you can apply for the Decree Absolute. If you have finances to sort out, then its best to wait until you have a sealed consent order that sets out what’s happening to money and property before applying for the Decree Absolute.
email [email protected] and be happy over your relationship
Hi Katherine, thanks for your comment, is there something we can help you with?

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