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The end of a relationship can be one of the most stressful and emotional experiences anyone can face, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Without the right support and expertise, it can all feel a bit daunting. At Giles Wilson, we’re here to make sure you never enter the divorce process alone or ill-informed.

If you are thinking of pursuing a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or separation, you’ll want to approach it with the right information behind you. Our specialist divorce solicitors have created this essential guide to what you need to know about the process. Of course, every case is different, and legal advice is tailored to the particular situation, so there is no substitute to seeking help from a solicitor. The earlier you take this advice, the better.

Want to talk to someone? If you are considering a divorce or dissolving your civil partnership, we’re here to discuss your situation and advise you on your next steps. Call us on 01702 477106 and speak to our divorce solicitors directly, or pop into one of our offices in Leigh-on-Sea. Absolute confidentiality is of course guaranteed.

Below is a comprehensive article covering the most frequently searched and asked questions relating to: How to get a divorce and How to dissolve a civil partnership

Other services in this category:

How to get a divorce

Divorce can be a complicated process, both emotionally and in its legalities. The steps to breaking up a marriage are a lot more involved than people realise, and they may require extensive legal advice and support to ensure the best interests of you and your family are protected.

Here, our divorce solicitors offer a guide to divorce, breaking down the stages involved, key areas to address to secure your position, and advice on how to finalise a divorce in the most straightforward and stress-free way possible.

What is divorce?

A divorce is the permanent end of a marriage in the eyes of the law. Also referred to as a dissolution of a marriage, this legal process allows a marriage to break up before the death of either spouse, extending to opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples (with the legalisation of gay marriage in 2014).

Currently, there are five accepted facts upon which you may rely for divorce. One of these must be fulfilled to successfully apply for a divorce, as well as providing sufficient evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Adultery

This is when either a husband or wife has sexual intercourse with another person outside of their marriage. As it stands, this reason for divorce only applies to opposite-sex couples, as the law defines the act of adultery as extramarital sex between a man and woman.

It is important to note that adultery cannot be accepted as a reason for divorce if you continue to live with your spouse for at least 6 months after you learned about the act.

Unreasonable Behaviour

The most commonly cited reason for divorce in England and Wales, this refers to a situation where staying married to your spouse would be considered unreasonable by anyone of sound mind.

Scenarios where this applies include physical abuse, verbal abuse, drunkenness, drug-taking or refusing to provide support (whether that be emotional or financial support). However, every case is different and what to include as unreasonable behaviour must be carefully assessed in each case.

Desertion

You can file for divorce if your spouse has left you:

  • Without your consent
  • Without good reason
  • To end the relationship
  • For at least 2 years out of a 2½ year period

You can still apply for desertion if you and your spouse live together for up to 6 months within the 2½ year span.

Separation for over 2 years

You can file for divorce (with your spouse’s written agreement) if you and your spouse have been separated for more than 2 years. It is possible to be considered separated while living in the same house as long as you aren’t living as a couple (e.g. eating and sleeping separately). Relying on the fact you have been living separately at the same address can be complicated and requires careful assessment of the evidence.

Separation for over 5 years

You can file for divorce (without your spouse’s consent) if you have been separated from your partner for over 5 years.

Currently, the UK does not allow “no-fault divorce”, which is applied in other countries like the United States, Canada and Australia. However, no-fault divorce is a topic of substantial discussion in recent years, and could result in the law changing in the future.

How many marriages end in divorce?

According to the most recent survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics in 2012, approximately 42% of marriages end in divorce, with half of these taking place within the first 10 years of marriage.

2017 saw 101,669 divorces of opposite-sex couples and 338 divorces of same-sex couples, with the most common reason behind these being unreasonable behaviour.

How long is it before I can get a divorce?

In England and Wales you need to have been in a legally recognised marriage for at least one year before you can apply for a divorce, and your relationship needs to have permanently broken down. Of course, if relying on desertion or separation, you’ll need to wait between 2 and 5 years to file for divorce. Usually, it is sensible to press on with a divorce sooner rather than later, if possible, and sometimes this means relying on adultery or unreasonable behaviour, instead of desertion or separation.

If you don’t wish to apply for divorce or have been married less than a year, there may be alternatives you can arrange.

A judicial separation allows you live apart as a result of the grounds listed above, but you do not have to prove the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Alternatively, you may be able to seek an annulment less than a year into the marriage. However, you have to either prove that the marriage was never legally valid (for example, close relations, underage, already married) or your marriage is defective (for example, it wasn’t consummated, you didn’t consent to the marriage).

Judicial separations and annulments are unusual and only relevant in particular cases. Always take legal advice from a specialist solicitor before embarking on this route as an alternative to divorce.

What is the role of a divorce solicitor?

Popular TV dramas like The Split have presented the role of divorce lawyers as very glamorous and impassioned. In reality, divorce solicitors spend most of their day working through piles of documents, or calmly acting as an advisor to help clients amicably agree on their financial deal or child arrangements.

That’s not to say the emotions portrayed in these dramas – hurt, anger, betrayal, deception, pain, fear – aren’t involved in real life scenarios, as they certainly are. As part of our divorce services, we work with people who are experiencing one of the most traumatic and emotional events of their lives.

This makes it crucial to offer empathetic and strategic legal advice geared to their specific divorce, and ensure they enter the process fully aware of what to expect.

How to file for divorce

The actual process of filing for a divorce can be fairly straightforward – handling the financial arrangements is the more taxing part of the process. Here, our divorce solicitors give you a step-by-step guide to applying for a divorce in England. Again, it is advisable to always consult a specialist solicitor before embarking on a court process of this nature.

What paperwork is required to apply for divorce?

Before applying for a divorce, you need to make sure you have your husband/wife’s full name and current address, your original marriage certificate (or a certified copy) and proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since getting married.

It is important to make every effort to learn your spouse’s address if you don’t know it, as they will be sent a copy of your divorce petition. If you’ve named the person your spouse committed adultery with, they’ll also be sent copies of the paperwork (although naming the third party is usually ill-advised).

You will then need to pay the Court fee to file for a divorce, the amount of which will depend on how you choose to apply:

Apply for divorce online: You can apply for divorce online through the GOV.UK website. You can only do this if applying for your own divorce, and you pay using a debit card or credit card.

Apply for divorce by post: To apply by post, you need to download, print and fill out divorce application D8, also known as a divorce petition, and send 3 copies to your nearest divorce centre (4 if you are naming someone your spouse committed adultery with). You either pay by debit card or credit card when the centre calls you for payment, or send a cheque made out to HM Courts and Tribunals Service.

Once your divorce petition is checked and confirmed, you’ll be sent back a notice of your application, a stamped copy of your application and your case number. Your husband or wife will then receive a copy of the petition known as the Acknowledgement of Service form, so it is encouraged you inform them that this is on the way.

They must respond to this form within 8 days. If you don’t hear from them, it is recommended to ring the court helpline on 0300 303 0642. You might be required to deliver the Acknowledgement of Service in person to make sure they’ve received it. Should they refuse to respond, you may be allowed to continue proceedings along the terms specified on your petition.

Once the Acknowledgement has been received or returned by your husband or wife, as long as they don’t intend to prevent the divorce or object to paying the costs if you’ve claimed these, you can begin the application for the two key documents – your Decree Nisi and your Decree Absolute.

What if my spouse tries to prevent the divorce?

If your husband or wife does not intend to prevent the divorce from taking place, this is referred to as an uncontested divorce, which makes the process far more straightforward.

However, if they do try to defend this from taking place, it will result in a Contested Divorce, which can lead to the couple attending Court hearings to settle the dispute. The Respondent has one month to submit their Answer to the Acknowledgment of Service, which is a statement explaining why they don’t feel the divorce should take place. Maybe they believe the marriage hasn’t irretrievably broken down, or they dispute the reason given for the divorce.

In these situations, the Court will take evidence from both the Petitioner and Respondent, and a Judge will decide if the divorce is allowed to take place. It is rare that a divorce is prevented but it does happen, such as the notable case of Owens v Owens in recent years.

What is a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute?

Should your husband or wife not defend the divorce, or a Court agrees you can proceed with a contested divorce, you can apply for a Decree Nisi. This document essentially states that the Court has no reason why you cannot get divorced from your spouse.

To receive your Decree Nisi, you need to fill out Form D84 and send the application to your nearest Divorce Centre. You will also need to provide Form D80, which is a written statement that supports your reasons for seeking a divorce. There are five different versions of this form – you need the one that relates to the reason behind your divorce. Finally, include a copy of your husband or wife’s response to your petition.

If the Judge agrees with this, you and your spouse will receive a Decree Nisi certificate stating the time and date it was granted. You’ll then need to wait 43 days (6 weeks and a day) to apply for your Decree Absolute. If the Judge rejects it, the Court will send instructions for your next steps.

A Decree Absolute is the document that officially ends a marriage. As mentioned there is a minimum waiting time between receiving your Decree Nisi and applying for your Decree Absolute of 43 days, and you are expected to apply for the latter within 12 months.

You should fill in Form D36 and send on to the Court, and they will check that time limits have been met and that no new reasons why the divorce shouldn’t take place have emerged. You and your spouse will then be sent a Decree Absolute, signifying you are both no longer married and free to marry again.

It is important to keep your Decree Absolute safe, as you’ll need to show it if you marry or as evidence of your marital status. Also, it is worth noting that if you haven’t applied for this decree, your husband or wife can do this as well, but they must wait a further 3 months on top of the 43-day standard and it will involve a Court hearing.

Making child arrangements when getting divorced

Supporting the best interests of children during divorce proceedings is as important to the Courts as it is for parents. This can make determining child arrangements during divorce a contentious subject, but with effective guidance from a solicitor, this can be navigated smoothly.

Essentially, child arrangements boil down to 3 main areas:

  • Where the children will live
  • How much time they’ll spend with each parent
  • What child maintenance will be paid

This can be arranged between you and your husband or wife privately, or with the help of mediation or alternative support. You may also want to contact a divorce solicitor to ensure the arrangements are sound or to help you reach an agreement. 

If you cannot reach an agreement, and if mediation doesn’t work or isn’t appropriate, you will need to apply for a Court Order and attend Court hearings to settle this matter. There are several different orders you can apply for:

  • Child Arrangements Order – this decides where your child will live, time with parents and types of contact
  • Specific Issue Order – this will relate to a specific aspect of your child’s upbringing, such as where they go to school or if they receive a religious upbringing
  • Prohibited Steps Order – this stops one parent making a decision about a child’s upbringing on their own

Anyone with parental responsibility for the children in question can apply for these Court orders. At the hearings a Judge will establish what you both agree and disagree on, as well as assess if your children are at risk in any circumstances. They could also ask Cafcass to provide a report on what they believe to be best for the child.

The Judge or Magistrate in your case will reach their decision based on several factors, including:

  • Your child’s wishes (depending on age)
  • Your child’s physical and emotional well-being
  • Your child’s age, gender, personality, background
  • Risk of harm to the child
  • Ability of parents to support the child

Whether this is settled between both parents privately or in the Courts, the best interests of the children should be the foremost concern of all parties involved. In most cases, disputes in relation to children can be resolved without recourse to Court and indeed the Court encourages the parents to try to find an agreement where possible, often through mediation.

Do I need a solicitor for a divorce?

There are two aspects to obtaining a divorce: the process of filing for divorce, and settling the financial arrangements between you and your soon-to-be former spouse. 

Although the stages listed above can look like a lot to handle at first glance, by following it step by step it is a relatively straightforward process. Although, as with any legal process, there can be adverse consequences if you get it wrong (including the need sometimes to pay additional Court fees). Remember that the Court office will not give legal advice, so whether to file for divorce, when to start it and what to put in the Divorce Petition can vary depending on each case.

It is advisable to speak to a trusted divorce solicitor to fully understand about getting divorced and we can then talk you through the process in person. And, if your spouse seeks to contest your divorce, reaching out to a divorce lawyer can help guide you through proceedings and ensure your spouse does not block this without good reason. 

However, filing for a divorce is just one part of the overall process. The additional support a divorce solicitor provides is managing the consequences of your break up – financial arrangements, children, property, wills – everything that will affect your life beyond your marriage.

These discussions can be far more complicated, and can be a significant source of the acrimony involved in certain divorce proceedings.

There is real value in contacting a divorce solicitor at an early stage of the process. They act on your behalf during negotiations both in and out of the courtroom, ensure all agreements are in your best interests, future-proofed and legally secure, and provide experienced, considerate support during this potentially difficult time.

Who gets what in a divorce?

Even if both parties getting divorced are in agreement that the marriage should break up, finding common ground on its terms can be more difficult to achieve. As divorce solicitors, the question of who gets what in a divorce is one that can cause emotions to run high and relationships to be strained, and it is where we offer the most critical support and advice to help achieve the best results for our clients and the situation in general.

In this section, we’ll outline the most common areas that need to be covered and confirmed before a divorce is finalised, including financial arrangements, child arrangements, property and more.

What am I entitled to in a divorce settlement?

There is no hard and fast answer to this question. However, one thing you should be aware of immediately is that a divorce settlement is rarely a 50/50 split. While this is often the starting point a Judge will take, numerous factors will be considered that affect this outcome, including:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Financial disparity between the spouses
  • The ages of the parties
  • The mental capacity of the parties
  • Earning potential post-marriage
  • Living expenses
  • Standard of living
  • Role in the marriage (breadwinner, primary carer, etc.)
  • Child maintenance

Overall, the aim of the Court is to distribute assets fairly on divorce, which does not necessarily mean equally; in fact, some assets aren’t capable of being divided in this way. Factors listed under Section 25 of the Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973, including those listed above, will influence how much each side is entitled at the end of your marriage.

It is critical to seek advice from a divorce solicitor early to discuss your circumstances and goals, and to give you an honest assessment of what to expect and what problems could emerge. Their expertise will also ensure no stone is left unturned so that you and your husband or wife have a firm settlement, without any threat of claims taking place down the road.

How are financial obligations determined in a divorce?

Typically, a divorce solicitor will break down the finances of you and your spouse into 3 distinct areas:

  1. Capital value (properties, shares, savings, assets, etc.)
  2. Pension value or other “future” assets
  3. Income

Once your solicitor has the above information, and has considered the Section 25 factors in your case, it is possible to discuss who ends up with what at the end of the marriage.

If you have both signed a pre-nuptial agreement prior to the marriage (or indeed a post-nuptial agreement), this can be employed to help guide the division and protect your assets.

In most cases, you will need outside assistance to find common ground when separating your finances, particularly where:

  • One or both of you own a business
  • One of you is financially dependent on the other
  • One of you does not want to divorce
  • Your children are financially dependent on you
  • Your marriage has lasted over five years
  • One of you no longer works to look after your children
  • One of you has significantly more assets than the other

These factors, among others, will be deemed by the Court as affecting the balance in your divorce. Discussing these issues with your spouse, with the help of an independent divorce solicitor, can help you organise your financial obligations without relying on the Courts to decide the case for you.

To make your agreement over finances legally binding, including who is entitled to what assets, maintenance payments and splitting investments, a solicitor can draft a Consent Order. This legal document confirms your agreement and ensures no changes are made beyond the dissolution.

The Court can approve your Consent Order as long as you’ve started the divorce process and you’ve obtained your Decree Nisi. You and your husband or wife will then both sign the draft Consent Order and a Statement of Information form, while one of you also needs to fill in a Notice of Application form.

Usually, there is no Court hearing after this, unless the Court determines based on you and your spouse’s finances that this agreement is unfair or particularly complex. In these circumstances, the Judge will query the proposed Consent Order and may fix a Court hearing.

What if we don’t agree on our financial obligations?

If you and your partner cannot reach an agreement over your financial situation, you can apply to the Court for a Financial Order. This can help you receive lump sum payments, ownership of a property, maintenance payments, pension shares and more as determined by what the Court deems fair. This process could take between 6 and 12 months, including attendance at several Court hearings.

The Court will use the Section 25 factors listed above to determine what they believe is the fairest way of splitting your assets and confirm any lasting payments. They will take into account the arrangements of any children you and your spouse have first and foremost, ensuring their needs are accounted for.

In these circumstances a Judge will often try to arrange a ‘clean break’, where both parties will no longer have any financial ties to one another. However, they could also institute maintenance orders for regular payments, set for a limited period of time or until one of you dies, re-marries or enters a civil partnership, or perhaps until your youngest child reaches a certain age. These payments might also adjust in relation to changing circumstances in the future (i.e. job losses or pay increases).

It is highly recommended to work with an experienced divorce solicitor throughout this process to ensure that there is no room for future claims or adjustments to be made after the divorce is finalised, and to ensure you receive your full entitlement.

How is a house divided in a divorce?

If your husband or wife is the sole owner of the property, it is important that you register an interest in it to protect your position during a divorce. As long as your home is registered with the Land Registry, you can apply for a “Matrimonial Homes Notice” or “Home Rights Notice”. Once registered, you have protection in the home and it cannot be sold without your knowledge of it. It is very sensible to take legal advice from a specialist solicitor on this important issue, so that you fully understand the nuances of what is involved.

More commonly, both of you will have ownership of your family home, but this can be in one of two circumstances: 

  • Joint Tenants – you are both equal owners of your home, and if it was sold you would split the assets equally.
  • Tenants in Common – you both own separate shares of the property, which could mean you own a different percentage of the home from your spouse.

The way in which you jointly own a property may be a relevant consideration. Depending on a variety of factors, including the age of any children, and depending on how the rest of the finances are arranged, there are a number of options in relation to the property including:

  • The house could be transferred outright to one person as part of the divorce
  • You and your spouse can agree to sell the home and split the proceeds
  • You can buy your spouse’s share of the property perhaps in return for other assets or a lump sum
  • You can transfer the home to your spouse and you receive a percentage of the value in the future (for example, when the youngest child reaches 18)

It is usually unwise to transfer or sell a property unless it is part of an overall financial agreement, concluded within the divorce. There can be consequences for doing this, including the ability of the Court to set aside the transfer or to order you to sell a substitute property you may have bought. 

Divorce & Maintenance Payments

When dealing with matrimonial finances, a divorce settlement can consist of maintenance. In these situations, both child maintenance and spousal maintenance may be appropriate.

Child Maintenance

Child maintenance is a maintenance payment that is paid by the non-resident parent (the parent the child does not live with) to the resident parent (the parent the child does live with) to help cover the costs of the child’s income needs.

If the child’s parents can come to an arrangement themselves, without intervention from the Child Maintenance Service, this is known as a family-based arrangement.

If the child’s parents cannot come to an arrangement themselves, then they can apply to the Child Maintenance Service (formerly the Child Support Agency) for an assessment of maintenance to be made. This incurs an application fee (but this can be waived in certain circumstances), and a percentage fee for using the service.

Any child maintenance payments agreed to or assessed as necessary will continue until the child reaches 16, or 20 if they are in full-time education or they are living with a parent who has registered for Child Benefit for them.

The Child Maintenance Service calculator can be used free of charge for guidance on how much maintenance the non-resident parent should pay based on the circumstances surrounding your case.

Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance is paid by the party in the divorce who has the higher income to the party with lower income, and is used when the Court feels a ‘clean break’ isn’t appropriate due to one party’s income not meeting their needs, and the other party having the ability to pay some form of financial support.

The court will look at various factors when deciding if spousal maintenance should be paid as part of the divorce, including:

  • The income of both parties
  • The income-needs of both parties
  • The earning capacity of both parties (now and in the future)
  • The standard of living during the marriage

These factors will help determine how much the spousal maintenance payments should be, if these will increase or reduce during the term of the maintenance order, and how long payments will last.

Spousal maintenance payments will be awarded for a set period of time; this may be a fixed term or until retirement age. Spousal maintenance payments will instantly stop when the person receiving the payments remarries, or one of several other events trigger a clause in the provision (such as the youngest child of the family reaching a certain age).

During the maintenance order, it is possible for either party to return to Court seeking to increase or decrease the amount of maintenance, or even in some circumstances for it to be “capitalised” (to seek a lump sum to be awarded in place of further maintenance).

In cases where spousal maintenance may be relevant, there is possibility to avoid this by offsetting this value against adjustments made to the overall division of assets at the point of divorce. This is more complicated than adding the maintenance up and giving the receiving party something of equal value – it must also account for “accelerated receipt” and other relevant factors that are part of matrimonial legal argument.

Therefore, it is advised to speak to a solicitor to discuss your options for maintenance payments during divorce, to help ensure all agreed payments are fair and appropriate.

How to protect your pension in a divorce

Pensions are often a notable asset that will often be divided as part of the divorce process. In England and Wales, the Courts take into account the total value of both your and your spouse’s pensions when considering how this should be divided, not just the value of the pension that was accrued while you were married.

It is recommended to list out the various pensions you and your husband or wife have currently, including:

  • A personal pension scheme
  • A work-based pension scheme
  • Additional State Pension

In order to protect the value of your pension while getting divorced, you should contact a family solicitor to help determine an estimate of the pensions built up over the course of the marriage (and before, if appropriate), making the result fair for both parties. This will be factored into the overall financial division. There are several options that can be used to divide pensions following a divorce:

  • Pension sharing – you receive a percentage of your spouse’s pension, either by having this transferred to your name or joining their scheme
  • Pensions offsetting – this is where you or your spouse is allowed to keep the full value of their pension by offsetting other assets to the other person
  • Deferred pension sharing – you agree to share your pension at a later date if only one of you is old enough to be receiving your pension
  • Deferred lump sum – you receive a lump sum from your spouse’s pension when they retire
  • Pension attachment order – you receive some of your spouse’s pension when it starts getting paid to them

Some of the rules relating to pensions in situations of divorce or dissolution can be complicated, so it is essential to receive clear advice from a trusted divorce lawyer. Any arrangement in relation to pensions can only be formalised within a divorce.

Changing your will after getting divorced

It is advised that, once you have divorced, you update your will to reflect this major life change. Many people will usually list their spouse as a beneficiary, trustee or executor of their will during the marriage. Once your Decree Absolute is confirmed, they will no longer be able to benefit or execute the terms of the will without this being expressed in a new will.

This could dramatically alter what happens to your estate after you’re gone, so it is important to contact a solicitor to discuss updating your will while you are getting a divorce. Especially if everything had been left to your spouse, that would leave you with no beneficiaries in your current will, meaning you would die intestate.

Intestacy means that your estate will be divided in accordance with prescribed rules. This could mean your actual wishes are not kept, affecting the legacy you leave behind to your loved ones.

You may also need some legal advice about any entitlement to death in service benefits which you or your spouse may have.

Achieving a finality in divorce proceedings

Above all else, it is crucial to secure a Financial Consent Order, approved by the Court, preferably before obtaining the Decree Absolute. Unless this is done and covers all aspects of your finances and property, your ex-spouse can make a claim at any time in the future (save in certain circumstances), even against your estate if you pass away before them. 

Currently there is no time limit in place as to when a claim can be made. These are often made if in the months or years following the divorce one side determines that the terms were not actually as fair as they first envisaged, or one former spouse comes into a considerable amount more money than they previously had.

By working with a dedicated divorce solicitor, you can help secure a positive financial agreement with your spouse as part of the divorce and secure a lasting, legally binding Court Order to protect your assets from the moment your Decree Absolute is issued.

To achieve this, it is usually advisable to deal with the divorce process and the finances in tandem, and it can cause problems if you conclude your divorce without having secured a Financial Consent Order approved by the Court.

Please note that financial agreements, however “formal” they seem, even if in writing, will not be binding, unless approved by the Court.

The financial claims which one spouse has against the other remain open (with some exceptions) even after Decree Absolute unless they have been dealt with by a Financial Consent Order, approved by the Court. If you remarry before concluding a Financial Consent Order, the claims you have against your former spouse may be defeated.

How long does a divorce take?

One of the most common questions asked about the divorce process is how long will it take to complete. This is understandable – it is likely a very emotional and challenging time for all involved, and most seeking a divorce would like it to come to a conclusion as quickly as possible. 

The national average for a divorce to reach Decree Absolute in England and Wales in 2016 was 33 weeks, according to government figures. But, it is hard to assign a definitive timeframe, as it depends largely on how much both spouses agree during the process, how much needs to be discussed in relation to financial assets, and how quickly each person submits the relevant documentation.

Once you are clear in your mind that a divorce is the best option for you, filing your divorce petition will take around 6 weeks to complete. In this time you should also be discussing your financial and child arrangements with your spouse, which is often the step that takes the longest. If both sides agree this can take a matter of weeks, but if contested it could take months and numerous trips to Court.

Once your divorce petition stage is complete, applying for your Decree Nisi and Consent Orders relating to your financial arrangements can take around 8 weeks. Then, once your Decree Nisi arrives, you must wait 43 days to apply for your Decree Absolute. This certificate should arrive around 2 weeks after the application is sent.

More often than not, depending on everything that needs to be discussed and how agreeable both parties are while getting divorced, you should expect a divorce to take between 6 and 12 months.

How much does a divorce cost?

Right alongside how long a divorce will take in people’s minds is how much will it cost. It is hard to quantify an exact figure of how much divorce costs as it depends on how complex it proves to be.

Recent statistics suggest that the current average cost of divorce in the UK is £14,561, relating to legal fees and lifestyle changes. However, this depends on who you work with, how long the process takes, how many visits to Court are required and the individual circumstances of the case. Working with our team for example can reduce this as our fees are lower than the national average. In our experience, most cases conclude for a fraction of this amount.

Typically, you will not be able to apply for legal aid to help cover the costs of getting a divorce. However, you may qualify if you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse or are receiving (or intend to receive) family mediation, should you fall in the right financial brackets. If you’re unsure, talk to a solicitor or visit Gov.UK’s legal aid check service

You might be able to apply for legal aid to help pay these costs if you are on certain benefits or your income is below a particular threshold but please note that Giles Wilson does not undertake legal aid work.

Most solicitors offer a fixed-fee for divorce services depending on the amount of work they are required to do for you. The costs will depend on how complex proceedings are, as this will affect the time it takes to reach a clear conclusion. You might also instruct a mediator for several sessions to oversee negotiations between you and your spouse, who will likely charge at an hourly rate.

While fees will vary from firm to firm, what is important to ensure is the solicitors you work with are completely transparent about the fees involved. This means you will get a firm idea of the prices involved in your specific case, and that you never fret about hidden fees emerging during the process.

If you’re in need of professional, considerate advice on divorce from a solicitor’s firm that’s clear about the fees involved, call 01702 477106 to speak to a trusted solicitor, or pop into our offices in Leigh-on-Sea or Rochford to arrange a consultation.

How to dissolve a civil partnership

If you are in a civil partnership, the process of dissolving it is similar in many respects to the stages of divorce outlined above. It essentially breaks down to two key aspects – applying for the dissolution of your civil partnership and confirming the financial arrangements for you and your partner once the dissolution is finalised.

Here we will outline the steps involved in a civil partnership dissolution, pinpoint any areas that differ from divorce, and give an idea of the time it takes and the costs involved.

What does a civil partnership dissolution mean?

Civil partnership is another way to legalise a relationship between a couple for those not wanting marriage. These were originally established to give same-sex couples essentially the same rights and responsibilities of opposite-sex married couples before the legalisation of gay marriage in 2014.

However, if someone disagrees with the concept of getting married, same-sex couples can still apply for a civil partnership to formalise their relationship and protect rights that may not be protected in unmarried couples. And, following a Supreme Court ruling in 2018 in favour of Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, opposite-sex couples will soon also be able to apply for a civil partnership licence.

A civil partnership dissolution means the same as a divorce for a marriage – it is the process of ending a civil partnership definitively, allowing both partners to enter another civil partnership or marry in the future.

How to apply for a civil partnership dissolution

Like a divorce, someone can only apply for a civil partnership dissolution after a year of being in the partnership. Furthermore, like a divorce you will need to discuss with your partner any arrangements over finances, children and property as part of the process, ensuring these are confirmed before the civil partnership officially dissolves.

Unlike divorce, there are currently only 4 possible grounds for ending a civil partnership:

Unreasonable Behaviour

Where the actions of your partner make it no longer reasonable to remain in a civil partnership, including cases of physical or mental cruelty, emotional, verbal, financial or physical abuse, irresponsibility with money and unfaithfulness.

Desertion

If your partner has left you without your consent or without good reason for the purpose of ending your relationship for more than 2 years in the past 2½ years, you can claim they have deserted you.

Lived Apart for More Than 2 Years

If you and your partner have lived apart for over 2 years, if you both agree to end the civil partnership you can start your application.

Lived Apart for More Than 5 Years

Living apart for over 5 years is in most instances enough time to apply for dissolution of your civil partnership even if your partner disagrees.

If one of these grounds for a civil partnership dissolution is fulfilled, you can file an application, which follows a very similar process to attaining a divorce:

  • You fill out a D8 application form, including your full name and address, your partner’s full name and address, and your civil partnership certificate (or official copy). You should also include the names and dates of birth of any children you have, no matter how old they are.
  • You then send 3 copies of this application to your nearest Court dealing with civil partnership dissolution, and either a cheque or a letter asking to pay the Court fee by phone.
  • 9 days after your civil partner receives their copy of the dissolution application to acknowledge and agree to, you can apply for a Conditional Order (similar to a Decree Nisi). If your partner doesn’t agree to end the partnership, you can still apply, but you’ll need to attend a hearing where a Judge will determine whether to grant your Conditional Order or not.
  • You fill out Form D84 to apply for your Conditional Order. If your partner is defending this, you fill in Section B which specifies you require a case management hearing. You will also need to fill in the specific D80 Form relating to the reason for dissolving your civil partnership, and a statement confirming the reasons. These forms you send back to the Court will have to show your partner has received your application, agrees with any arrangements for your children, and their response to the application.
  • 6 weeks after the application for your Conditional Order is accepted, you can apply for a Final Order using Form D36 (or your partner can apply after a further 3 months). You should send this within 12 months of receiving your Conditional Order, and ensure that all legally binding agreements over division of finances, property, child maintenance, etc., are completed before the Final Order is granted. The Court will give a final assessment if there are any reasons the partnership shouldn’t end, and if they are satisfied they will send you and your partner a Final Order, confirming the end of your civil partnership.

You can read a more detailed breakdown in the “How to file for divorce” section, as the steps to applying for a civil partnership follows the same procedure and required forms. Any subtle variations are identified in the above breakdown, or you can speak to a solicitor specialising in civil partnership dissolution if you have any further questions or concerns.

As always, it is sensible to take advice before embarking on a legal process.

Who gets what when a civil partnership dissolves?

The process of arranging settlements for finances, property and children when a civil partnership dissolves follows the same lines as a divorce. The Courts may take the same starting position of a 50/50 split, but again this often doesn’t end up being the case. 

Due to the complexity this aspect of finalising a civil partnership dissolution can cause, you should contact a solicitor who has expertise in handling these agreements.

This professional support will help ensure you establish a legally binding Consent Order over the elements that will impact both you and your partner’s lives (and the lives of any children involved) once your civil partnership dissolution is confirmed.

Like in divorces, not settling these financial arrangements prior to finalising the dissolution leaves you vulnerable to later financial claims when you are no longer together, sometimes as a result of a change of circumstances of you or your partner. Achieving a “clean break” is the goal your solicitors will seek to secure for these discussions, meaning neither partner is financially associated with the other once the partnership is dissolved (where possible).

  • The factors that determine who receives what;
  • What happens to the family home;
  • The ongoing maintenance you could need to pay or receive;
  • Child arrangements;
  • The impact this can have on your pension and other benefits;
  • Why you should change your will following a dissolution;

Please read the “Who gets what in a divorce?” section of this page. Remember, this sets you up for life after your civil partnership, so ensure you receive trusted, expert advice from specialist solicitors or other legal professionals.

How long does a civil partnership take to dissolve?

As with divorce, how long it takes for a civil partnership to dissolve depends largely on whether both parties agree to the partnership ending and how long it takes to find common ground over child arrangements, financial arrangements and other details affecting both partners.

Of course, there are set deadlines for certain aspects of the process:

  • You must wait at least 9 days after your civil partner receives your application to apply for your Conditional Order
  • You must wait 6 weeks after being granted your Conditional Order to apply for your Final Order
  • Your Final Order will usually take up to a fortnight to process before you receive your certificate

If there are no complications and both partners are agreed throughout the process, you can achieve a Civil Partnership Dissolution in 4-6 months. However, if the matter requires more negotiation or appearances at Court, it is likely proceedings will take between 6 and 12 months.

How much does a civil partnership dissolution cost?

The cost of a civil partnership dissolution will depend largely on the length of time it takes to conclude, the complexity of the situation and the professional support you require during the process and with your financial negotiations.

Like in divorce, there are several fees you can expect to pay for the various Court Orders required to dissolve a civil partnership.

On top of these fees will be the rates for your solicitors, mediators or other legal professionals involved in the process. This might come in the form of a fixed rate or be paid by the hour, depending on the level of service you require, how contentious the split is and how many appearances in Court you must make during the process.

Above all else, it is important to work with professionals that are clear and upfront about the fees required. Our team is leading the way to give our clients complete transparency over their fees, ensuring the costs of dissolving a civil partnership are evident and approved before we proceed.

Speak to Specialist Solicitors in Divorce & Civil Partnership Dissolution

We hope the information above has given you a greater understanding of the process of getting divorced or dissolving a civil partnership. This can be one of the most emotionally taxing experiences someone can go through, and having a clearer knowledge of the steps involved can go a long way to reducing the stress involved.

A messy divorce is the last thing anyone wants when their marriage breaks down. At Giles Wilson, we help untangle what are often very delicate and complex situations.

Our experienced divorce solicitors work with you to take on so much more than paperwork – we help protect your family, your finances, and your future. If you’re starting divorce proceedings, having the right legal representation behind you can make the world of difference.

If you’re ready to talk, so are we. Speak to a solicitor today on 01702 477106 to address your divorce or civil partnership dissolution immediately. Alternatively, you can arrange a consultation in person by visiting our offices in Leigh-on-Sea or Rochford.

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The expertise of our solicitors is regularly recognised by some of the profession’s most distinguished organisations. As well as being a member of a number of Law Society schemes, we have won awards at the Law Society Excellence Awards, the Halsbury Legal Awards and the Modern Law Awards. We have also received recognition in the form of the Lexcel mark of quality, a Legal 500 listing and a place on the shortlist of The Lawyer’s Boutique Firm of the Year.

Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson
Awards and Recognitions of Giles Wilson