How to get a divorce - step by step
There are three legal steps to getting divorced. There’s also an optional (but recommended) step in the middle of the divorce process, to end your financial marriage too (we’ll explain more about this later). The process is the same for civil partners, so all references to divorce apply equally to dissolving a civil partnership.
- Divorce application
- Conditional order
- Financial remedy order (a consent order if you agree) optional
- Final order
Step 1: Apply for your divorce
Choose whether you wish to make a sole application or a joint application. This is up to personal preference. If you make a joint application, it is possible to change to a sole application later in the process if needed.
Things you will need before you apply for a divorce:
You will need…
- To have been married for at least a year
- A copy of your marriage certificate
- A post address for your ex-partner
The ‘reflection period’ begins after your divorce has been started (issued) by the court. This is a mandatory 20-week period before your divorce can progress. You can read more about this in our checklist for the reflection period.
Step 2: Apply for your conditional order
If you’ve applied for divorce together, in a joint application, you will need to both check and approve the applications at each stage. If you apply in a sole application, your ex will need to respond before you can apply for your conditional order.
If you’re the ‘respondent’
You will need to ‘acknowledge receipt’ of the divorce application, and respond online, or by paper form posted back to court.
There are very few ways to contest a divorce with the introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022. These are:
- The marriage was not legal
- You're already divorced
- Jurisdiction (you think the divorce should take place elsewhere)
Points of confusion
If you and your ex are amicable, don’t panic if you see on the divorce application that your ex has ticked the box to issue a financial order. This probably means that they would like to sort out your money, property and other finances through a consent order. Nothing needs to be immediately decided and you can always book a free 15-minute call to speak with us if you have any questions about the process.
If you’re the ‘applicant’
If you’re the applicant and your ex has responded or you applied for divorce together, you will be prompted for when you can apply for your conditional order by email, if you applied online or by post if you applied on paper.
You will need to complete the online form and tick the statement of truth in order to apply for your conditional order. If you’re applying by paper, you will need to fill out the form and return the paperwork, plus any other necessary documents to the court.
You can find more information about applying for your conditional order in our guide here.
Step 3: Apply for a consent order (optional)
If you want to end your financial marriage, you’ll need a clean break in a financial remedy order. This is called a consent order if you agree. This will need to be prepared (drafted) by a legal professional, such as amicable, and will also need to be reviewed by a judge to make sure it’s fair in the eyes of the law.
Even if you don’t have any money or property to sort out when you separate, you will stay financially tied together after your divorce, which means if you build up any pensions, or savings or receive any inheritance in the future, you're not protected against claims from your ex. If you have no assets, we offer a clean break consent order service.
If you want to end your financial marriage through a consent order, it’s recommended you do this before the final order, especially if you are planning to share pensions as part of your settlement. However, if you’re already divorced, you can still apply for a consent order. If you have any questions about this, you can book a free 15-minute call with one of our amicable experts.
Step 4: Apply for your final order
Six weeks and one day after your conditional order date, you can apply for your final order.
Your conditional order date will have been emailed to you if you applied online.
If you’re sorting out money and property as part of your divorce, it's normally recommended to wait until the financial matters have been resolved because your legal rights and responsibilities will change after you’re divorced.
You can read the full government advice on how your legal rights and responsibilities change after divorce here, but the key things that are affected are to do with pensions and wills, particularly if you're sharing any pensions as part of your agreement.
You can find more information about applying for your final order in our guide here.
Points of confusion
The final order application is very quick and involves clicking the button under ‘latest updates’ prompting you to apply. Once you’ve submitted your application, it can be processed anywhere between an hour and a few days. So make sure you are confident you want to finalise your divorce. Once your application has been submitted and processed by the court, you’re officially divorced and free to re-marry.
Can you divorce online?
Yes, you can apply for a divorce online through the government website. It is possible to print and post your divorce application to court, however, this can take longer than the online process.
How long does it take to get a divorce online?
It takes a minimum of seven months for a divorce or dissolution to be finalised through the courts in England and Wales. It will take longer if you’re resolving your finances as part of your divorce.
How to apply for a divorce online?
You can apply for a divorce online through the government divorce portal or using an online divorce service such as amicable.
A consent order is a legally binding document, that formalises the financial arrangements you and your ex have agreed to.
Divorce is commonly accepted now as one of the most traumatic experiences you may have in life. I know it certainly was for me.
Co-founder of amicable, Kate Daly is hosts 'The Divorce Podcast'. The Divorce Podcast explores all aspects of ending relationships, separation and parenting apart.