HomeThe Divorce Process

The Divorce Process

Getting started – divorce in a nutshell

Getting divorced is often a bewildering, costly and stressful event for many people. Therefore, it is vitally important that the online application forms are correctly prepared ensuring the process is as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

No fault divorces were introduced on 6 April 2022 as part of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. The introduction of no fault divorce means that a married couple can divorce without one party having to blame the other.

Under the old law, one party (known as the ‘petitioner’) had to issue a petition against the other citing that person’s adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. Alternatively, they could issue a petition based on the fact of a period of living apart.

The new divorce process is more streamlined and it is now very difficult to contest a divorce.

The criteria for divorce

Despite these major changes to the divorce laws, the criteria for divorce have largely remained the same.

In order to issue divorce proceedings in England and Wales, the parties must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have been married for at least 12 months; and
  • One of you must be resident in England and Wales (i.e. live there permanently). Alternatively, one of you must be domiciled in England and Wales (i.e. regard either as your home country).

Online or paper divorce?

Whilst it is still possible to issue a traditional ‘paper’ petition, all legal representatives are now expected to submit petitions via the HMCTS online portal.  This guide only describes the online process.

Broadly speaking, the 4 step process is as follows:

The application

One (or both parties) complete an application (formerly known as a ‘divorce petition’) giving notice that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The acknowledgment

In the case of a sole application, the respondent must complete the acknowledgement of service within 14 days of receiving the notice of proceedings.

In the case of a joint application, each applicant must confirm receipt of the notice of proceedings within 14 days.

The conditional order

20 weeks after the court have issued the application for divorce, the applicant (or applicants) confirm that they want to proceed with the divorce by applying for a conditional order (formerly known as the ‘Conditional Order (previously known as decree nisi)’).  The court reviews the application and, assuming they are satisfied the applicant (or applicants) have demonstrated the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they will grant a conditional order.

The delay between issuing the application and the court granting the conditional order was to allay fears that the new changes were making divorce easier.  The 20 week timeframe serves as ‘cooling off’ period allowing couples the opportunity to reflect and work through their differences before taking the final step described below.

The final order

After a further 6 weeks, the applicant (or applicants) can apply to court to make the conditional order a final order, thus bringing the marriage to an end.  The final order was previously known as the ‘decree absolute.’

The whole divorce process will take a minimum of 26 weeks from start to finish although, given the likely delays (by both the parties and the court), it will probably take a little longer.


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