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A Guide To: Divorce Procedure

Olivia Sheanon

Family and Employment Solicitor


The divorce process in England and Wales changed significantly on 6 April 2022 with the introduction of ‘no-fault divorce‘. These changes also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

The law and procedure in this guide are for applications for divorce made on or after 6 April 2022.

If you or your spouse applied for a divorce before 6 April 2022 then the previous laws and rules will apply.

These changes also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Criteria for starting divorce proceedings in England and Wales

You can get divorced in England or Wales if all of the following are true:

  • You’ve been married for over a year;
  • Your relationship has permanently broken down;
  • Your marriage is legally recognised in the UK; and
  • You or your ex are habitually resident or domiciled in England and Wales, meaning:
    • You or your ex were domiciled in the UK when you began divorce proceedings;
    • Your ex is habitually resident in England and Wales;
    • You are habitually resident in England and Wales and have been living here for at least 12 months immediately before you issued your divorce petition; or
    • You are domiciled in England or Wales and have been living here for at least six months immediately before you issued your divorce petition.

If I got married overseas, is my marriage valid in England and Wales?

Marriages that have taken place overseas (i.e., outside the United Kingdom) will only be legally recognised in the law of England and Wales if they are legally recognised in the country where they took place and also according to the domicile of the parties. 

For example, if you and your husband got married in Saudi Arabia in a legally recognised ceremony according to the laws of Saudi Arabia and were both born, raised and settled in Saudi Arabia, it is likely that your marriage would be recognised in English law.

Applying for Divorce

To obtain a divorce you must confirm that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Irretrievably broken down means the marriage has ended permanently and cannot be fixed.  If you are applying for a divorce, you will be asked to confirm that your marriage has broken down on the application form.

As of April 2022, it is not necessary to explain to the court why the marriage has broken down. If there has been abuse or there are other types of safety concerns, the court will want to know about these in other proceedings such as child arrangements but it will not affect the process of getting divorced. 

Stage 1: Apply

An application for a no-fault divorce can be made online. 

No-fault divorce allows for someone to make a sole divorce application, which is then served to their former partner, or a joint application which a couple submits together.

If a sole application is made, the court will send a copy of the divorce application to the other spouse. They are then required to confirm receipt of the application and send an ‘acknowledgment of service’ form back to the court within 14 days.

Stage 2: Conditional Order

Once service has been dealt with the next step is for the applicant, or applicants to apply for a conditional order. You must wait 20 weeks from the date of the application being issued before applying for the conditional order – this is known as the ‘cooling off’ period and allows couples to reflect and consider if they want to continue with the divorce.

Once this 20-week period has expired you may apply for a conditional order on a form

Stage 3: Final Order

Six weeks and one day after the date of your conditional order, you can apply for your final order.

This brings your marriage to an end, and you are then formally divorced. However, you should not apply for the final divorce order until any application for financial orders has been resolved or an agreement has been reached about financial matters, and this has been made into a court order.

How long does a no-fault divorce take?

The time limits to process divorce require just over 6 months from application to final order. However, the process is likely to take longer depending upon how long it takes for the court to process each stage of the divorce and how long it takes each spouse to respond.

What GOOD LAW FIRM can do for you

Our divorce solicitors have an extensive range of expertise with divorce and all of the subsequent arrangements that need to be put in place following a divorce, such as the division of finances and suitable arrangements for children.

We also provide advice for divorce applications following the introduction of no-fault divorce, which came into effect on 6 April 2022.

We understand the cost of divorce proceedings and assure that we provide the best possible expertise at a competitive and reasonable price, and we aim to provide accurate cost estimates and time frames from the outset.

We provide:

  • Starting divorce proceedings as a sole applicant
  • Starting a joint divorce application
  • Making arrangements for finances
  • Making arrangements for children
  • Engaging in alternative dispute resolution
  • High net worth divorce
  • Civil partnership dissolution
  • Legal separation

A warm welcome to GOOD LAW INTERNATIONAL. To learn more about us and our practice areas, we invite you to browse through our website and contact us or book an appointment