Why is my divorce taking so long?

Why is my divorce taking so long and how to speed it up?

Originally published on 18th June 2019 at 10:48 AM

Reading time: 2 mins

The legal process of divorcing or ending a civil partnership takes longer than most people realise. The average time it usually takes to divorce/ end a civil partnership through the courts for cases issued before the introduction of No-fault divorce (6th of April 2022) in England and Wales is around three to six months.

For cases issued under the new No-fault divorce law it will take a minimum of six months.

So, what are the most common reasons for it taking so long?

1. The courts are swamped and taking time to process your paperwork

The courts in England & Wales are swamped with applications and take some time to process them. On top of this there are busy times of year where they are even busier (after major holidays, i.e. Christmas, New Year and the summer holidays).

2. There’s an error in your application

If you have made a mistake on the paperwork and the court has a query, this will inevitably cause delays. If you are unsure on any queries the court has on your application, then call us on 0203 004 4695 to avoid any further delays. We can take over your application and put errors right for you.

3. The court needs more information in order to figure out if you’re entitled to a discount / exemption on the court fees

If you have applied for a discount on the government’s court fee (usually £593) – you will need to wait until they notify you and pay any fee you owe before they proceed to the next step. Sometimes, the court will ask for evidence of your earnings which again can add time.

4. You / your ex hasn’t completed one of the steps

There are four steps to divorcing / ending a civil partnership under the No-fault system;

1. The divorce / dissolution application

Completed by either the couple jointly, or one person if they are submitting a sole application

2. The Acknowledgement of Service

If the a sole application has been submitted, the other person will need to complete and return to court the acknowledgement of service form (online or by post)

3. The Conditional Order application

You must wait for the 20-week reflection period to elapse before progressing if you applied for divorce after the 6th of April 2022

This was formerly called the Decree Nisi application in the previous system before No-fault divorce was introduced. This should be completed and checked by both applicants for the joint journey and only applicant one for the sole divorce journey

4. The Final Order application

You must wait six weeks and one day after the Conditional Order (formerly the Decree Nisi) pronouncement date before submitting the Final Order

This was formely called the Decree Absolute application. This should be completed and reviewed by both applicants for joint divorce applications and applicant one for sole journeys.

If there is a hold up at any of these steps, it will prolong the process. If you are unsure where you are up to with your application, then you should contact the person who’s managing the process for you or if you’re doing it yourself then call the court switchboard on 0300 303 0642.   

5. You are sorting your finances too

It’s normal that the process takes longer if you’re formalises your finances at the same time. The financial process is a lot more involved and involves a lot more back and forth with negotiations. For a personalised divorce timeline on how long it’s likely to take, considering the finances too click here.

6. You don’t have an address for your ex

If you have no idea where your ex is, the courts will want you to prove it. The important point here is that the court wants to be reassured that you have tried every means necessary to contact them, so they are aware that the divorce / dissolution is coming. You will need to complete a separate form if you’re not able to get an address which takes time to be processed.

7. Your ex is ignoring the divorce / dissolution petition

If you have an address for your ex but they choose to ignore the petition, then you’ll need to prove to the courts that they have received it. This is usually through showing a text / email in which they have confirmed that they’ve received it. You can also opt to get a professional process server to physically hand them the papers. Again, this is an additional form and process that adds a lot of time on to your processing time.

For a more detailed breakdown on the timeframes for divorcing / ending a civil partnership through the courts in England and Wales click here. Or click here to get a free personalised divorce / dissolution timeline.

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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Kate Daly
Kate Daly
Kate Daly is a co-founder of amicable and host of The Divorce Podcast. Kate is a divorce expert and helps couples and separated parents navigate divorce and separation amicably. She's passionate about changing the way the world divorces and campaigns for fairer divorce laws and access to justice.

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