Divorce Law guide

Separating from a spouse and filling for divorce can be one of the hardest times in anybody’s life. when we marry, we assume we are going to stay together forever, that divorce isn’t something we are ever going to have to worry about, but sadly this isn’t the case. People changes, situations change and relationships that used to work perfectly, can become unstuck and unstable. We understand how difficult the divorce process is on your emotionally, and how exhausting, lengthy and confusing the entire process can be, which is why we have put together a divorce guide to help you to understand the process better.

I’m in a civil partnership, is the process the same as a divorce?

Yes, it isn’t called divorce, it is called a dissolution, however the two are essentially the same thing. The process of dissolving a civil partnership is very similar to that of a marriage, the reasons you provide will be the same, as it the paperwork and the timeline. The only real difference is that it’s called a dissolution instead of a divorce. The same way a civil partnership has a different name to a marriage, but legally it equates to almost the same thing.

Do we both have to agree to get divorced?

If you do both agree to get divorced then this will make the process much more straightforward and much quicker, however, you don’t have to both agree. There are two types of divorce, an undefended divorce (where both parties agree) and a defended divorce, which is where one person is reluctant to divorce on the others request. This can make the process much more difficult, however, you can still get divorced, you won’t be forced to remain in the marriage just because the other person says they don’t want a divorce.

Do I have to get divorced?

No, not at all, you can separate from your partner without getting a divorce or a dissolution. However, when you marry or enter into a civil partnership, you are legally binding yourself to another person. If you then separate, it is a good idea to break that legal bond between you so that you are no longer legally responsible for things like debts they accrue, the way to do that is to apply for a divorce or a dissolution. If you want to separate but don’t want to get divorced there are other options, you can get a separation agreement which allows you to separate from your partner, but leaves the marriage/civil partnership, open to reconciliation.

What are the legal requirements for divorce?

Before you can apply for a divorce you must check that you and your relationship satisfy the basic requirements:

  • You must have been married for a minimum of one year.
  • The relationship is deemed to have broken down irreparably.
  • The marriage must be recognised by UK law and you must have permanent residence in the UK or Wales.

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How long does a divorce/dissolution take?

In the UK a divorce or a dissolution of a civil partnership takes a minimum of 6 months, if the separation is straightforward, uncontested and all paperwork is completed on time and correctly. However, in some cases it can take years to fully complete a divorce. The reason it takes tis length of time is because of the different stages you have to go through.

What are the main stages of a divorce/dissolution?

There are three main stages every person has to go through if they want to apply for a divorce or a dissolution.

  1. Filing a divorce petition
  2. Applying for a decree nisi
  3. Applying for a decree absolute.

To understand the process in more detail, see our summary below.


There are three stages of a divorce/dissolution. First, you need to make an application to the courts to end the marriage, this is called “Filling a divorce petition”. When you do this, you will need to provide evidence that the relationship has broken down in such a way that it is irreparable. You will need to give reasons for wanting too legally separate.

There are 5 grounds for divorce that are considered acceptable by the courts:

  1. Adultery (if you or your spouse has cheated on the other). If you select this option, you will need to provide details on who your spouse has committed adultery with as well as times and dates the adultery took place, to evidence the adultery actually took place for the courts.
  2. Unreasonable behaviour. If your spouse has acted or treated you in such a way that you consider their behaviour to be unacceptable and can no longer live with them. This includes things like physical, emotional and sexual abuse, dominating a partner, etc.
  3. If your partner walked out of the marriage for no good reason and without your agreement, then after two years they are considered to have deserted the marriage and you can file for divorce.
  4. Living apart for two years. Like desertion, however, this is for situations where you both agree to live apart. If this on-going for two years or more, and you both agree to a divorce (in writing), you can apply to the courts.
  5. Living apart for five years. If you have lived apart from you spouse for five years, you can apply for a divorce and regardless of whether or not they contest it, you will be most likely granted the divorce.

Once you have applied for a divorce, a copy for the divorce petition is sent to your partner and they must respond to either agree to the divorce, or to contest it. If they agree, you are then able to take the second step which is the apply for a decree nisi.

After 6 weeks of being issued a decree nisi (and after the courts have announced the decree nisi) you are able to take the final step and apply for a decree absolute. Once this is granted, you will officially be divorced.

If you would like to discuss your separation, or have any question, contact one of our divorce specialists now.

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