The instigator of the separation is usually ahead on this path. This means they have had more time to get used to the idea of separating and have started considering alternatives and solutions.

The person who didn’t make the initial decision to separate is in a different place. They are still feeling raw emotions like shock, denial and anger. In this state, they will find it impossible to make agreements. The more the instigator gets impatient, the more their partner digs their heels in and things grind to a halt.

Your separation will therefore be slower if you rush the other person. If you are in this position don’t apply pressure but either allow time for your partner to catch up. Or if possible look at other options such as professional coaching or counselling support to help with the ‘grieving and moving on’ process.

The legal bit

If you’re married, there are three stages to the divorce process. There’s also an optional stage if you’re separating your finances as part of your divorce.

You can start divorce yourself through the government website, or we have services where this is included.

You can request a custom divorce timeline to estimate when your divorce might be finalised here.

Step one: divorce application

The first stage of the legal process for divorce is to submit your divorce application. It’s the same process to dissolve a civil partnership. Learn how to apply here.

Step two: conditional order

The second step in the process is called the conditional order. You can learn more about this stage here.

Step three: consent order (optional)

If you plan on sorting out your finances, you can apply for a consent order. A consent order documents how you will divide your money and property. It’s a good idea to have one if you have assets to split and want to make sure any agreement you come to is legally binding. A consent order will also normally include a ‘clean break’.

Step four: final order

The last step is the final order application. Once you receive your final order certificate, you’re legally divorced and free to re-marry if you wish. You can learn more about this stage here.

Children and co-parenting

Understanding where to begin and how to make arrangements for your children can be overwhelming and confusing if you’re separating from your partner.

You don’t need to go through the court to make these arrangements unless there are safeguarding issues.

You can decide these between yourselves or with the help of a specialist such as amicable or mediation. Explore our services, free tools and resources.

Sorting out money and property

The legal starting point for dividing assets is 50/50. This is then adjusted by taking into different factors which you can explore in our agreement checker. In most cases, neither of you will be able to go on enjoying the same standard of living as you did during the marriage. It’s rare that assets and income stretch that far. This is an important point to get your head around and can often come as a shock. The law will try as far as possible to create a clean break between you and your partner, allowing you to move on independently.

Professional help

There are lots of options when it comes to choosing your professional help. Click on the option to see whether it's the best approach for your situation.


amicable is a couples' legal service that can help with all aspects of your separation. As negotiation specialists, we can help you reach a fair agreement, and help you make arrangements for any children. We're different to solicitors because we stay neutral and work with you both and we’re more comprehensive than mediation because we also complete the legal forms necessary.


A mediator is an independent, trained professional that helps you and your partner to work out agreements for children or finances. You need to be aware that you'll need to go elsewhere to get the legal side of separating sorted. If you already have an agreement, you can use amicable to prepare the legal forms such as the consent order.


A solicitor can manage the legal process of divorce as well as any financial and childcare issues too. This option is most relevant where there are danger signs, and you need your own legal protection. For example, domestic violence, one person hiding /moving assets.


Family arbitration is a process where you and your partner appoint a fair and impartial legal specialist, called an arbitrator to make decisions about all or part of your financial and children’s arrangements when you separate or divorce.


Going to court should be the last resort, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Going to court is usually the most expensive, acrimonious and drawn-out option. It's estimated that the legal cost of going to court is around £40k per person in London and £13k per person outside of London. It can take approximately two years or more at times to finalise things through the court.