A couple must have been married for at least one year before divorce proceedings can be started.
The person who starts the divorce proceedings is known as “applicant” and the other spouse is known as the “respondent”. To be eligible to start divorce proceedings in England and Wales, the applicant must meet at least one of the jurisdictional criteria, which are based on the habitual residence or domicile of one or both parties to the marriage.
The Divorce Application
Since divorce laws changed in 2022, it is now no longer necessary to assign fault and it has become far easier for couples to obtain a divorce.
If your spouse agrees to a divorce, you can make a joint application together to the Court for a divorce. If not, you can make a sole application for divorce.
You can apply for a divorce online or by post, with the applicable Court application fee being £593.
Responding to the Divorce Application
Once the divorce application has been issued, if you have jointly applied to the Court, you will both need to submit an “acknowledgment receipt” to the Court.
If you made a sole divorce application, your spouse will have to complete an “acknowledgement of service” within 14 days confirming that either (i) they agree with the divorce or (ii) they intend to dispute the divorce. Before responding to an application, it would be sensible to seek legal advice.
Disputing a divorce application
If your spouse disputes the divorce, they will need to complete an “answer form” confirming their reasoning. Please note that your spouse must have a genuine legal reason such as (i) the Court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain the proceedings; (ii) the marriage is not valid or (iii) the marriage has already legally ended. They cannot object to the divorce simply because they do not want it or wish to delay the process. If your spouse notifies the Court that they wish to dispute the divorce but do not complete the “answer form”, you will be able to proceed with your divorce application.
You can apply for a conditional order 20 weeks after you applied for your divorce or dissolution. This is where the court will decide if your divorce or dissolution can go ahead.
You can’t do it sooner than 20 weeks – this is so that you and your partner have time to decide you definitely want to go ahead.
The court will let you know when you can apply for a conditional order by email or post – this depends on how you first applied for your divorce or dissolution.
This is the halfway stage of your divorce application.
Please note that whilst the divorce application is separate and distinct to matters concerning children and matrimonial finance, a judge will be unable to approve an Order regarding your matrimonial finances until you have your conditional order.
Changing from a joint to a sole application
If you and your partner want to stop making a joint application, either of you can ask for it to be changed to a sole application when you apply for a conditional order.
The person taking over the application will become the ‘applicant’ and the other person will become the ‘respondent’.
If you’re the person changing the application from a joint to sole application, you’ll need to send a copy of the conditional order application to your partner.
Following a conditional order, you have to wait 43 days (i.e. 6 weeks and 1 day) before you can apply for a final order. This will permanently end your marriage or civil partnership.
The court will let you know when you can apply for a final order by email or post – this depends on how you first applied for your divorce or dissolution.
We can provide specialist advice about divorce proceedings and if you decide to divorce we can make sure the process runs as smoothly as possible.
Our costs for a straight forward undefended divorce will generally be a fixed fee of £1,250.00 plus VAT (£250.00) and the court fee of £593.00.
If you haven’t agreed about your finances, pensions and home
The final order might change how your money and home are divided between you and your partner.
If you’re the sole applicant, get legal advice before you apply for the final order.
If you’re the respondent or a joint applicant, you should get legal advice as soon as you can. You won’t be able to stop your partner from applying for the final order, but you might be able to ask the court to delay it.