My spouse and I have separated, what is the process for getting a divorce?
Divorces are granted by the court on the basis that the marriage has ‘broken down irretrievably’. You can now certify this fact yourself without providing specific details in evidence. This is a new change as of 6 April 2022 – you can read more about the shift to ‘no fault’ divorce here. You can make a unilateral application (which your spouse would then respond to), or if you and your spouse still have a cordial relationship you can make a joint application. After your application is issued, there is a minimum 20 week wait before you can apply for a ‘conditional order’. Once that has been granted, there is a minimum six week wait before you can apply for the third and final stage, the ‘final order’. That document legally brings your marriage to an end.
To lodge an application you will need to provide your solicitors with a copy of your marriage certificate (or ‘marriage schedule’ if you were married on or after 4 May 2021), so you should find that as soon as possible to avoid delay. If you don’t have access to the original (whether it’s been lost, or you don’t want your spouse to notice you’ve taken it out of safekeeping), official copies can be ordered for a small fee.
My spouse doesn’t want a divorce – can they refuse a divorce?
Under the new system, there are very limited grounds on which your spouse can oppose an application for divorce. They will only be able to challenge it on the basis that something about the legal process is wrong, for example if the courts of England and Wales do not have jurisdiction (usually only relevant if you live an international lifestyle and haven’t spent much time here), or if they can show that the formalities for a legal marriage were never satisfied.
How much the divorce process cost?
The cost of having a solicitor assist you with your application will depend on the amount of time spent on the matter. If you want to make a joint application, there will be time spent liaising with your spouse or their solicitors, and if cordial communications between you break down and you want to make a sole application, there will be some repetition. The current court fee for applying for a divorce is £593.
Financial issues and disputes about how children should be co-parented after separation are dealt with separately from the divorce proceedings, and the costs associated with this will depend on the complexity of the dispute. If you and your spouse have matrimonial property, it is essential that you seek legal assistance in relation to financial matters as well as the divorce – and that you do so before instigating divorce proceedings.
Although it can feel daunting to seek legal help, and this does involve upfront cost, good advice at the outset saves far more money time and stress than waiting for a dispute over property to arise. It can also prevent costly mistakes.
Our experienced and approachable family law team will be sympathetic to your plight and will be able to support you through what can be a difficult emotional process. We recommend that you contact them as early as possible to arrange a consultation. They will be able to provide a cost estimate tailored to your specific circumstances.
Does the new law apply to me, and when can I get divorced?
From 6 April 2022 onwards, all divorce applications will be made under the new law and procedure (no fault divorce) regardless of when you got married.
The law remains that you can only apply for a divorce once you’ve been married for a minimum of one year; if your relationship breaks down before this, you can live separately and make informal arrangements to maintain financial independence, but you would have to wait until the one year mark before applying for a divorce or for the court to deal with any financial issues consequent upon your divorce. If you would like assistance before the one year mark, we can help talk you through other options for attaining some peace of mind, such as a judicial separation or a post-nuptial agreement.
Do I have to reach a financial settlement before I can get a divorce?
The short answer is no, but we would recommend trying to resolve financial matters in conjunction with your divorce proceedings. Once a divorce is finalised it can impact certain entitlements, such as pension rights. It is also advisable to have matters resolved prior to either party getting into a new relationship, as this can muddy the waters, and can sometimes increase animosity. We recommend reading our Financial Settlement on Divorce FAQs page here.
Do I need to instruct a lawyer to get a divorce?
We would strongly recommend using a lawyer for advice and assistance, particularly where there are matrimonial assets and/or children of the marriage. Of course, you and your spouse may deal with the matter amicably, in which case you may wish to negotiate everything between yourselves, but we would still recommend each of you seeking legal advice before any binding agreement is reached and so that matters can be formalised. This protects both of you, and ensures that the arrangements you have in place can be enforced if need be.
I’m about to get a divorce, can I transfer my property to a friend or family member to protect it?
The short answer is no – any transfer of property can be traced and the court can force the property to be transferred back. If the matter goes to court you will be viewed unfavourably if you try to deprive your spouse of property they have an entitlement to. We would recommend seeking legal advice to see how you can protect your assets without undermining your position in the eyes of the court..
Do I have to go to court to get a divorce?
Unless there are legal arguments about jurisdiction etc which would allow your spouse to oppose your application (see above) you will not need to attend a court hearing in order to get divorced. However, you will need to file documents with the court at three different stages. This allow the court to deal with the whole matter remotely. If you appoint solicitors they will be able to take care of all filings for you.
We got married in another country, can I still get divorced in the UK?
You can get divorced in the England & Wales if at least one of you has been habitually resident in England and/or Wales for the year leading up to the date when you file for divorce, or if one or both of you are ‘domiciled’ in England or Wales, even if you are not resident here.
If you are a foreign national, you should be aware that you will likely be able to apply for divorce in another country – such as your home country – potentially in addition to being able to apply here. If either of you has strong ties to another jurisdiction, you should seek early advice as there are different rules, procedures, advantages and disadvantages depending on where you apply for a divorce.
To arrange a preliminary consultation with our family law and divorce solicitors, or to find out how we can support you, please send us an email, complete our online enquiry form or call us on 020 7183 8950.
We regret that we do not accept instructions on a legal aid basis.