How long does a divorce take under new UK divorce rules

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How long does a divorce take under new UK divorce rules?


How long a divorce takes has changed following new no-fault divorce rules coming into effect. It now takes a minimum of 26 weeks (6 months) to get divorced in England and Wales. This only covers the divorce proceedings, however. Division of finances and child arrangements are separate processes which can take less time or longer, depending on the circumstances.


After coming into effect on 6 April 2022, the new divorce rules have also introduced many changes that aim to avoid conflict between divorcing couples. This includes removing the need to place blame on a single spouse. However, the changes have increased the time it takes to get a divorce in some cases.


Previously, a divorce would usually take 4-6 months, but with the addition of a new 20-week “cooling-off” period, this timeline has increased to a minimum of 6 months.


How has the divorce process changed?


Previously, to get a divorce, an applicant needed to cite one of five accepted reasons for the end of the marriage. These were desertion, unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years separation with their spouse’s consent and five years separation without their spouse’s consent. This requirement has now been removed.


The previous system often resulted in further conflict as one spouse needed to take the blame for the failure of the relationship. On top of this, the old laws allowed the application to be contested, meaning that in some cases, a divorce would not be granted without a court hearing.


In contrast, the no-fault divorce law simply requires the applicant to provide a statement saying that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This cannot be contested. To further reduce conflict, it is now also possible to make a joint divorce application, allowing couples to split more amicably.


The final key change in divorce law is the introduction of a 20-week “cooling-off” period between the original application and the Conditional Order (which the court issues to state there is no reason the divorce cannot proceed). This has been implemented as a way to give both spouses time to consider the decision to divorce and make choices regarding things like childcare and finances.


How do you get a divorce under the new laws?


The new divorce process can be broken down into several key parts:



The divorce application


This online application form can be completed by both spouses (a ‘joint application’) or one spouse alone (a ‘sole application’). When completing the form, the applicant/s must state that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.


Applicants are required to provide the original marriage certificate, or a certified copy, and personal details like both spouses’ names and contact details. It is also recommended that the applicants get in touch with a solicitor to discuss their options, including the impact of divorce on their finances and any children.


After the divorce application is submitted, the court will officially ‘issue’ the divorce’. Both spouses will receive a copy of it and the applicant/s will be provided with a confirmation and a case number. In the event of a sole application, the spouse who did not make the application (the ‘respondent’) will need to return an ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ form within 14 days.


Overall, the divorce application will take around 7 days to fill out and a further 10 days to be processed. If a paper application was submitted, it can take longer.


The Conditional Order


The next stage in divorce proceedings is to obtain the Conditional Order. This court order confirms that there is no legal reason your divorce cannot proceed.


There is a minimum 20-week cooling-off period after the court has issued the divorce before you can apply for this. This is to provide the couple with time to reflect on their decision to get divorced and start making choices regarding their finances and any children they may have.


The Final Order


For a divorce to be legally binding, the court must issue a Final Order. Applicants become eligible for the Final Order 6 weeks after they obtain the Conditional Order. Once the Final Order is issued, you are officially divorced.


In all cases, contacting a divorce solicitor can help to speed up this process by guiding sole or joint applicants through each stage of their divorce. They can also provide advice regarding finances, childcare arrangements and any other services that may be required.


Do you have to be separated before you can get divorced?


Under the old divorce laws, couples sometimes needed to have been separated for periods of 2 or 5 years before they could get a divorce.


However, the new laws no longer require applicants to provide a reason for divorce other than a statement of irretrievable breakdown. This means that applicants do not have to have been separated to be granted a divorce by the court.


It should also be noted that there is no such thing as an “automatic divorce” after a period of separation. A married couple must apply for a divorce for it to be legally binding, even if they have been living apart for a long period of time.


How long does it take to get a divorce settlement?


Throughout a divorce, decisions have to be made regarding property, personal belongings, finances, pensions, etc. This process will typically take months, but the timeline can vary massively depending on the situation.


When dividing finances, Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, is used to decide what is considered fair. It takes into consideration:


  • Income and earning capacity of each spouse
  • Assets
  • Contributions
  • The age of the individuals
  • The length of the marriage
  • Any future financial obligations
  • The needs of the parties
  • Conduct


Depending on the complexity of the couple’s assets and finances, it is possible to reduce the time it takes to get a settlement by agreeing on the terms privately or through mediation.


However, if it is necessary to have a court decide on division of finances and the situation is complex, it can take over a year.


How long do child arrangements take in divorce?


A divorce can be a confusing and stressful time, especially for children. The only way to reduce some of the uncertainty that they may be feeling is by making child arrangements quickly.


In the best-case scenario, the couple will be able to make these arrangements through mediation or in private. However, in cases that are more complex where there is disagreement, a Child Arrangements Order may be needed.


Getting a Child Arrangements Order generally involves applying to a court where your case will be handed over to the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). Background checks will be carried out on both spouses and there will be a preliminary court hearing, followed by further hearings if necessary. This process will usually take 6 months to a year to complete.


Speak to our specialist divorce solicitors


Our friendly divorce solicitors in Somerset can guide you through all parts of the divorce process. This includes divorce applications, finances and arrangements for children.


We have local offices inn Wells, Street and Somerton, with our team being accessible by email, phone and video conferencing for your convenience.


To speak to one of our experts, please call us on 01749 836100 or Ask us a Question.