One of the most common concerns for individuals going through a divorce is the duration of the process. The question of “how long does divorce take?” is one that weighs heavily on the minds of those involved. In the UK, the duration of a divorce can vary significantly depending on several factors. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the divorce process in the UK, the factors that can influence how long divorce takes and a general timeline of the process.
Understanding the Divorce Process in the UK
Before we delve into the specifics of the divorce timeline, it is crucial to understand the divorce process in the UK. The current divorce process, which came into effect on 6 April 2022, was introduced in England and Wales as a result of The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. It aims to make divorce proceedings as amicable as possible for couples. Here are some key features of the process:
- No-Fault Divorce: Since the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 couples do not have to assign blame or prove that one party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, there is only one ground for divorce which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
- Joint Application: Couples will be able to make a joint application for divorce. This means that both parties can initiate the divorce process together, signifying their mutual agreement to end the marriage. This is expected to promote cooperation and reduce conflict between the former spouses.
- Divorce cannot be contested: Before the the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 if one spouse contested the divorce, it could lead to lengthy court battles and increased hostility between the parties. With the removal of the defending divorce option, the process is expected to be smoother.
The Divorce Process
Step 1: The Divorce Application
Once you and your spouse submit your joint application for divorce, the court will review it. You will both receive a case number and an acknowledgement receipt from HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS). You will then wait for 20 weeks before it is possible to apply for a conditional order of divorce.
If you are making a sole application for divorce, you will receive a case number and a copy of your application that has been stamped by HMCTS. The court will also send your spouse a copy of your divorce application and an acknowledgement of service receipt. Your spouse has 14 days to respond to the court notification and indicate whether they agree with or dispute the divorce.
If your spouse agrees with the divorce, you can apply for a conditional order after a minimum of 20 weeks from the original application. However, if your spouse disputes the divorce, they must complete a form stating their reasons for objection. It’s important to note that the reasons must be legally valid and not simply because they do not want to divorce. There are very few legally valid reasons to dispute a divorce.
If your spouse does not respond, the court will provide guidance on the next steps.
Step 2: Conditional Order Application
The court will review your application, which can take several weeks.
If the judge agrees, the court will send you and your spouse a certificate and tell you when you’ll be granted the conditional order.
You need to wait a minimum of 43 days (six weeks and one day) after being granted the conditional order before you can apply for the final order.
Step 3: Final Order Application
The court will check all the details and send you both copies of the final order of divorce.
Once you receive the final order, you are divorced however it is essential to also obtain a Consent Order which legally severs the financial arrangements between a former couple.
Factors Affecting the Duration of a Divorce
In theory the answer to the question “How long does it take to divorce?” is six to eight months but the reality is it can take much longer. Several factors can influence the duration of a divorce in the UK. These factors can either speed up the process or prolong it, depending on the circumstances. Here are some of the key factors:
- Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: The first factor that can significantly impact the duration of a divorce is whether it is contested or uncontested. If both spouses agree on the terms of the divorce, including the division of assets and arrangements for children it is considered an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces tend to be quicker and less expensive. On the other hand, if there are disagreements regarding the terms of the divorce, it becomes a contested divorce. Contested divorces can take longer to resolve as they usually require negotiations involving third parties such as divorce solicitors and family mediators. The divorce can take even longer if court intervention is required which is why at Tyrer Roxburgh, we only go down this route as a last resort.
- Complexity of Financial Matters: The second factor that can affect the duration of a divorce is the complexity of the couple’s financial matters. If the couple has significant assets or complex financial arrangements, such as multiple properties, businesses or investments, it can prolong the divorce process. The court may need to conduct a thorough investigation to ensure a fair division of matrimoinal assets. This can involve valuing properties, businesses and other assets, which can be a time-consuming process.
- Child Arrangements and Support: The third factor that can influence how long a divorce takes is if there are children involved. Determining custody arrangements and child support can add complexity to the divorce process. The court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child, which may require additional time for evaluation and decision-making. This can involve assessments by Cafcass or psychologists, and in some cases, the court may need to hear evidence from the children themselves.
- Unresponsive Applicants: Unresponsive applicants can severely slow down the divorce process. When one spouse fails to respond or cooperate in the divorce proceedings, it can create delays and prolong the overall timeline. It is important for both parties to actively engage in the divorce proceedings to ensure a smoother and more efficient process. In cases where one spouse is unresponsive, it may be advisable to seek legal advice from a family law solicitor to explore the available options and strategies to move the divorce forward.
- Court Backlog: The fourth factor that can affect the duration of a divorce is the workload of the court. If the court is experiencing a backlog of cases, it may take longer for your divorce to be processed. This is something that is largely out of the control of the individuals involved but can significantly impact the timeline of the divorce.
Tips on Speeding Up the Divorce Process
- Choose an uncontested divorce: If you and your spouse can agree on the terms of the divorce, including asset division and child arrangements, it can significantly speed up the process. Uncontested divorces are generally quicker and less expensive.
- Hire an experienced divorce solicitor: A competent divorce solicitor can guide you through the process, ensuring that all necessary documents are filed correctly and on time. They can also help negotiate with your spouse’s solicitor, potentially avoiding lengthy court battles.
- Be organised and prepared: Gather all the required financial documents, such as bank statements, tax returns, and property valuations, beforehand. This will help streamline the process and prevent unnecessary delays. Be honest when making your financial declaration (Form E), missing or incorrect information causes delays.
- Consider mediation in the early stages: If you and your spouse are having difficulty reaching an agreement, mediation can be a helpful alternative. A trained mediator can assist in facilitating discussions and finding common ground, potentially resolving issues more efficiently. Before a Court will intervene in proceedings a couple must have at least attempted mediation unless there are exceptional circumstances such as domestic violence.
- Be cooperative and open to compromise: Taking a cooperative approach and being willing to compromise can help avoid unnecessary conflicts and legal battles. This can save time and reduce the overall duration of the divorce process. This is the ethos of Resolution who promote a concept called collaborative divorce which tends to create less animousity between couples and can achieve arrangements that work for the longer term.
- Stay informed and communicate with your solicitor: Regularly communicate with your solicitor, stay informed about the progress of your case, and promptly provide any requested information or documentation. This will help keep the process moving forward smoothly.
It’s important to remember that each divorce case is unique, and the timeline can vary depending on individual circumstances. Seeking legal advice from a qualified solicitor is recommended to understand the specific requirements and options available to speed up the divorce process in your particular situation.
In summary: How long does divorce take?
In conclusion, how long divorce takes in the UK can vary significantly depending on several factors, including whether it is contested or uncontested, the complexity of financial matters, child custody arrangements, the proactiveness of the divorcing couple and the court’s workload. While there is a general timeline that most divorces follow, it is important to remember that individual circumstances can significantly impact the duration of the process. If you are considering a divorce, it is advisable to seek legal advice. A solicitor can provide you with a more accurate estimate based on your individual circumstances and can guide you through the process, ensuring that you understand each step and what it entails.
You may also be interested in reading: How much does divorce cost in the UK.