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How to Get a Divorce Explained

There are several key steps to follow during the legal process of getting a divorce. This guide explains how to get a divorce, how to apply, and the cost of getting divorced in the United Kingdom.

Other important topics cover the process of applying for a decree nisi or decree absolute. Extra guidance explains how to get a legal separation without using the services of a lawyer.

Check to See if You Can Get a Divorce

In England or Wales, you can apply to get divorced if (both):

  • You have been married for at least one (1) year.
  • Your relationship has broken down ‘permanently’.

As a rule, you would need to have a permanent home in England or Wales.

In addition, the marriage must have been ‘legally’ recognised in the United Kingdom. This part would also include a same-sex marriage.

Some couples choose to separate instead of completely ending the marriage. A legal separation means you could live apart without getting divorced (see below). In some cases, there may be valid grounds to ‘annul a marriage‘ altogether.

Things to Work Out before Applying

In most cases, there would be several important issues to find agreement on. For example, you and your spouse (husband or wife) may need to work out:

Another area for agreement is dividing money and property when a relationship ends. But, if you want to make it ‘legally’ binding you must do it before the deadline.

There are ways to avoid going to court hearings if you both agree on the reasons for ending the marriage. But, you would also need to agree on what happens with any children and how money and property gets divided.

Note: The process differs for divorce and dissolution of a civil partnership in Scotland. There are key differences for getting a divorce or dissolving a civil partnership in Northern Ireland.

Getting Advice on the Agreement Issues

You can get help and advice from several different organisations, including Citizens Advice. Check the legal aid rules and regulations to see if you can get help paying for mediation. The family mediation council can help you find a local mediator.


Grounds for Divorce

There are several ways to prove a marriage has broken down to justify divorce proceedings. You would need to give at least one of these five grounds for divorce in the United Kingdom.

Applying for a Divorce

You need to have some important information prepared before you file for a divorce. Check what details you need and how to apply for a divorce in the United Kingdom.

Apply for Decree Nisi

Your husband or wife must answer whether they intend to defend the case. Providing no one intends to defend a divorce petition, you can go ahead and apply for decree nisi.

Apply for a Decree Absolute

A absolute decree is a legal document that ends the divorce process and dissolves the marriage. Thus, you must apply for a decree absolute before you can become ‘divorced’.

If Your Spouse Lacks Mental Capacity

Emotions can intensify in a divorce when a husband or wife lacks mental capacity or has health problems. Therefore, not being able to make your own decisions brings extra challenges to the divorce process.

Getting a Legal Separation without a Lawyer

Couples who are in a broken relationship can live apart by getting a legal separation. In fact, they can do so without divorcing or ending a civil partnership. They would need to fill in a separation petition and send it to the court.

There are several reasons to get a legal separation instead of a divorce, such as if:

  • You were unable to stay married for more than one year.
  • You want some extra time (or space) to decide whether the marriage should end.
  • You have religious reasons for not getting a divorce.

Asking for a legal separation follows the same reasons as when filing for a divorce. It means unreasonable behaviour or adultery would be valid grounds for a legal separation. But, there is no need to show that the marriage suffered an irretrievable break down.

Fill in the judicial separation petition form D8 and then send two (2) copies to your nearest divorce centre. Keep a copy yourself too, and include a certified copy of your marriage or civil partnership certificate.

Note: The cost of getting a legal separation is £365. People on benefits or a low income might qualify for financial help paying the court fees.

How to Get Divorced in the United Kingdom