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Where to start when getting divorced

One of the first things to consider before you call the solicitors is – can my marriage be saved?

It is best to try and talk things through with your spouse before taking any legal steps.

Or consider counselling, either alone or together.  Search for counsellors local to you on our divorce directory

However, if you are sure your marriage has broken down and cannot be repaired, then it is time to seek out the right legal advice from a specialist in family law.

Taking this first step is often the most difficult and our team of specialist divorce solicitors will be able to help you through it.

  • Step one: Can I get divorced?

    To be eligible for a divorce or to end a civil partnership, you need to have been married or in the civil partnership for 12 months or more. 

    If this is not the case, in some circumstances you may be able to apply to annul the marriage or petition for judicial separation.

  • Step two: Get the right solicitor for you

    Every divorce is unique due to the individuals involved, their relationship, family and assets. 

    It is, therefore, fundamental that the solicitor you appoint has the relevant skills to get the result you want. 

    It is also important that you are comfortable with your solicitor, that they understand your legal needs and, just as importantly, the emotional aspects of your situation.

    With over 70 highly experienced family lawyers, we will match you to a solicitor that has the right experience and approach.

    We start with a free telephone consultation so you have a chance to speak before deciding to proceed with your case. You need to feel comfortable and reassured. 

    Read our guide to finding the right solicitor for you.

  • Step three: Your first appointment/consultation

    At the first meeting, either in the office or on a video conferencing call,  you will discuss the reasons for the breakdown of your marriage.

    You will be asked to provide the date of separation, details of any children of the family, including proposed future arrangements for their care, details of your own and your partner’s assets, income, savings and pension interests. 

    The first meeting is very much a fact-finding exercise to enable your solicitor to advise you properly on the best next steps. 

    You can also expect to learn more about your options including what processes you can use to reach a resolution in your case whether through negotiation, collaboration, mediation, arbitration or litigation.

    Your lawyer should also be able to give you a better understanding of what your future could look like. 

    Tips on getting the most out of your first meeting with your family lawyer 

  • Step four: Decide on the legal reasons on which you wish to rely for divorce

    The long-awaited ‘no-fault divorce’ will finally become law in autumn 2021.

    Until then, to file for divorce you have to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by reference to one of five legally defined facts:

    • Adultery – proven by an admission from the other party
    • Unreasonable behaviour
    • Desertion for a period of two years
    • Two years’ separation (with the agreement of both parties to a divorce)
    • Five years’ separation (with or without an agreement to a divorce)

    The facts most commonly cited are adultery or behaviour as people are often unwilling to wait for two years to divorce without attributing blame.

    It is worth bearing in mind that the reason for the breakdown of the marriage rarely affects how the finances are divided and in most cases, the content of the divorce petition is agreed before it is sent to the court. 

    It is always advisable to seek the advice of a qualified divorce solicitor before taking any action. For more detailed information see our guide on grounds for divorce

     

  • Step five: Start the divorce process

    Whilst the particulars of each divorce will vary, the divorce procedure in England and Wales follows a process which starts with the filing of a divorce petition, otherwise known as D8 form.

    The form is filled out by one spouse (the petitioner) and is filed at Court, and then sent by the Court to the other (the respondent).

    Your solicitor will draft, prepare and lodge the necessary paperwork with the Court.

    It is at this stage that payment of the court fee is required (currently £550). You can pay by debit or credit card (the divorce centre will call you to take payment) or by cheque – made payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service.’

    What happens next to your petition? 

    Your application will be checked by the court and, if it’s completed correctly, you will be sent a notice that your application has been issued, a copy of your application and a case number.

     A copy of the application will be served on your spouse who will have seven days to respond to say if they intend to defend the divorce. 

    If your ex-partner says in a form they send to the court called the acknowledgment of service form that they do not wish to defend the divorce petition, then you can apply for a decree nisi. 

    This is the interim decree of divorce and basically means the court sees no reason why you cannot divorce.

    Once the decree nisi has been pronounced, you can apply after six weeks and one day to have the decree absolute granted. This is the formal court document that legally dissolves your marriage.

    For a more detailed look at process and paperwork, see our guide on how to get Divorced

    However, very few divorce cases involve only bringing the marriage to an end. Usually, there are arrangements to sort out for the children of the family and the finances including property, investments, businesses, pensions and income.

    To separate your finances, you must reach a financial settlement; a legally binding decision on how assets and wealth will be split now the marriage has ended. 

    Arrangements for children will need to be made if required, and these are also dealt with separately to the divorce.

More information

We have a helpful diagram to explain the divorce process here. 

You can also download our guide to getting divorced here (PDF)

We also have a series of divorce FAQs where you might be able to find out more information.

If you are ready to speak to someone, you can make a first, strictly confidential enquiry to our Client Care Team below. 

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