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How easy is it to get divorced in the UK?

There’s a stigma surrounding all legal proceedings; specifically, people assume that they’re certain to be protracted, mired in tradition and, ultimately, convoluted. The process of getting a divorce in the UK is actually largely straightforward… under certain circumstances.

The four stages of divorce in the UK

The divorce process can be broken down into four separate stages:

  1. You file for divorce
  2. Your spouse completes and returns an Acknowledgement of Service to the court
  3. You apply for your Decree Nisi; and
  4. You apply for your Decree Absolute

Each of these steps requires the completion and filing of paperwork. The Petitioner (the person applying for the divorce) will need to complete steps one, three and four, whilst the Respondent (the Petitioner’s spouse) will be responsible for step two.

By and large, these forms are easy to complete, with the exception of the Divorce Petition where needing to select the correct jurisdiction, choose your grounds for divorce and provide further details are all capable of both drawing out and increasing the costs of the divorce process. If you married abroad, it’s made harder again by the need to reference elements of your marriage certificate word-for-word which, surprisingly, is harder task than you’d think.

What happens if you make a mistake?

If a mistake is made at any stage, you will be asked to amend and then resubmit your documents. Each time that this is required, a fee exceeding £100 will need to be paid to the court meaning that the process will not only suffer delays, but significantly increased costs too.

What if your spouse doesn’t agree to the divorce?

If you’ve filed on certain grounds, you’ll be able to proceed without your spouse consenting to the divorce. If you’ve filed on the grounds of two-year separation, there’ll be no way you’ll be able to proceed whereas, with adultery, you’ll need to go through the extremely difficult task of proving that your spouse was unfaithful.

In the event that you filed on the grounds of five-year separation or unreasonable behaviour, you’ll be able to obtain a divorce without your spouse’s consent, but the process is certain to become protracted and more difficult if this is the case.

What about your divorce settlement?

Whilst the task of dividing joint funds and assets is not technically part of the divorce process (you can actually get divorced without having an agreement in place) it’s highly advisable that you try to reach an agreement with your spouse before you file your petition. If you are able to do this, you’ll be able to make the agreement legally binding prior to the divorce process concluding.

If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement, we’d recommend you delay starting your divorce until you have something in place as, whilst there is no legal requirement for you and your spouse to have an order in place before finalising your divorce, you’ll be leaving yourself open to claims in the future – and these can even include post-divorce earnings – if you don’t.

How you can make the divorce process easier

By following a few simple steps, you can go a long way towards making the divorce process significantly easier:

  1. Contact your spouse and ensure they agree to the divorce;
  2. Get help completing your divorce papers;
  3. Choose your grounds carefully; and
  4. Try to agree a settlement before filing

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