How to file a divorce petition

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Originally published on 25th September 2019 at 12:35 PM

This guide will walk you through how to file a divorce petition through the courts in England or Wales. 

The legal steps you will need to take are the same (if it’s a straightforward divorce/dissolution) but the way in which you manage the process varies. The below options explains the legal part of the divorce process only and doesn’t cover financial or childcare arrangements. 

Choosing how you’ll complete the divorce / dissolution process

  1. DIY divorce

You can manage the process yourself if you’d like to, you can divorce online using the government’s online portal.  

  1. Managed divorce service

There are low cost options if you’d prefer an expert to manage the process on your behalf. Book a free call here to discuss the options or do your own research online. 

  1. Use a lawyer / solicitor

If you feel you need the protection of a lawyer or solicitor then this option is always available to you. This route is necessary if the divorce is the potential for international jurisdiction. If you're divorce / dissolution is amicable with no complications, there are definitely cheaper options available. 

The legal steps of divorce / dissolving a civil partnership

Step one: The Divorce / Dissolution Petition (also called the D8)

You need the following to start divorce / dissolution proceedings:

  • To be married / in a civil partnership for at least one year 
  • Addresses for you / your ex and one of the addresses must be in England or Wales
  • An original copy of your marriage certificate, in English. Click here for advice on getting a new copy or translated copy of your marriage certificate
  • To decide who will start the divorce and who will respond to it 
  • Decide what reason you will use. There are currently five reasons you can choose from: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years separation (both of you agree), five years separation (only one person has to agree) or desertion
  • £550 to pay the government, see this as a filing / admin fee. You can also check if you / your ex is entitled to a discount on the court fees here

This can be done online using the government website or there's a lot of options available if you want / need support from a divorce expert. Read our straightforward guide to divorce options or book a no obligation call with one of our experts here

Step two: The Acknowledgement of Service

The Acknowledge of Service form needs to be completed by the other person needs to complete and send back to the court that confirms that they agree to the divorce / dissolution. 

Step three: Decree Nisi (D84)

This is when a judge will review your application and either agree or disagree that you have grounds to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership. If they agree the relationship has broken down and is past the point of repair, you will both receive a Decree Nisi certificate and a ‘Decree Nisi Pronouncement date’. 

Step four: Decree Absolute (D36)

Six weeks and one day after the Decree Nisi Pronouncement date, the Petitioner (the person that filed the first petition) can apply for the Decree Absolute which is the final part of the process. 

How long does it take to divorce / end your civil partnership?

On average, if there are no bumps in the road, it takes three to six months for all of the divorce papers to be completed you divorce/ dissolution made legally binding through the courts. You can request a more personalised estimated by answering a few simple questions here

Ending your financial relationship and the possibility of future claims 

It’s very important that you’re aware that ending your marriage or civil partnership through the courts does not end your financial relationship. If you want or need to legalise your arrangements and end your financial claims you’ll need to get a consent order. A consent order (sometimes called a financial order) is a completely different legal process that can be completed either as you divorce (generally the best option) or after. 

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

Find the right service for you

About the author

Rebecca has a background in family law and has also been through her own divorce. Rebecca is fantastic at offering pragmatic advice and is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the legalities around divorce and separation.


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