How long does a divorce take?

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There was an article on the BBC news site yesterday about “quickie divorces”.  So this is a good time to explain the timetable for divorces in England and Wales.

Divorce law changed in April 2022. The grounds for divorce changed, and it is no longer necessary to make any allegation of fault.  But that wasn’t the only change to the law. Another change was to the timetable of the divorce process.

After the divorce application is issued at court, there is a minimum 20-week waiting period before the applicant can apply for the first of the two divorce orders.  This is the conditional order, formally known as decree nisi.

That period gives the parties time to resolve the financial matters which accompany the divorce.  It is only after the conditional order has been made, that the court has the authority to make orders about financial matters, including making orders to approve an agreement which the parties have reached between themselves.

After the conditional order, there is then a further six week waiting period before the applicant can apply for the final order.

I am often puzzled by references in the media to “quickie divorce“.  There really is no such thing.  The divorce timetable is set by the court.  The only exception is that you can apply to speed up the timetable if one party is terminally ill, and seeks to conclude the divorce process quickly in order to remarry.

Although some divorces may take longer, this is usually because the parties are resolving the financial matters.  The divorce process itself cannot be short-circuited.  The minimum timetable is 26 weeks.

If you see a reference to a “quickie divorce“ be sceptical!  Ask yourself whether the reference is really to a divorce in the UK courts…