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Getting a divorce

This advice applies to England

The divorce process will end your marriage. You can only get a divorce if you’ve been married for at least one year.

You might be able to get divorced without needing a solicitor or going to court if you and your ex-partner can agree you both want a divorce, and on the reason why.

If you or your partner won’t agree to getting a divorce it’ll take more time and cost more money than if you both agree. 

If you agree on your divorce and the reasons why, getting a divorce legally finalised will usually take 4 to 6 months. It might take longer if you need to sort out issues with money, property or children, which will have to be done separately.

Don’t use websites that promise cheap divorce packages. You’ll still have to pay the divorce application fee.

If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help.

You can call Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time. 

Men's Advice Line is a charity that helps men suffering domestic abuse. You can call their helpline on 0808 801 0327 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

 If you’re unsure about what to do next, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Before you end your marriage, you'll also need to decide:

Before you apply

You should try to agree your reason for your divorce with your ex-partner. Find out more about which of the 5 facts you should use, known as ‘grounds for divorce’ to show your marriage has broken down.

If you’ve decided the fact you want to rely on is 2 years separation with consent, you’ll need to have permission from your ex-partner to divorce. If they don't give permission, you can't rely on this fact.

If your partner disagrees with the divorce (sometimes called a ‘defended divorce’) or you can't agree who should pay the divorce fee or other costs, you might need legal advice or to go to court.

If you’re relying on 5 years without the consent of your partner, it’s very unlikely you’ll need to go to court. However, you should probably get legal advice.

You need your marriage certificate to help you fill in the details on the form correctly - for example, the address of where you got married. If you fill in any of the details wrong, your application will be sent back to you.

You can order a copy of your marriage certificate from GOV.UK. Copies will cost you £11.00. 

Your visa status when you divorce

If you’re in the UK as a dependant on your partner’s visa, you’ll lose your visa status once your divorce is made final.

You’ll need to check whether you can stay in the UK long term. You might need to apply for a new visa if you get divorced. If you don’t have the right to stay in the UK you might have to leave. Find out more about how to stay in the UK after a divorce.

You can also speak to your nearest Citizens Advice for help.  

Fill in the divorce form

You can find the divorce form on GOV.UK. You can apply by post or online.

Your nearest Citizens Advice can help you fill the form in correctly.

Applying by post

You’ll need to fill in your partner’s name and address on the form. If you don’t know it, write to their last known address. You can read how to divorce someone you can’t track down husband or wife on GOV.UK.

Make 4 copies of the divorce form. You’ll need to send 3 and keep 1.  

If you’re putting adultery as your reason for getting a divorce and name the person, you'll need to send 4 copies. A copy will be sent to the person so they can respond. Make 5 copies of the divorce form. Send 4 and keep 1. You can find out about putting adultery as your reason for getting divorced.

Send the form to your nearest divorce centre. You can find your divorce centre on GOV.UK.

You should include your marriage certificate - this can be the original or a certified copy. You’ll also need to pay the application fee.

 The divorce centre will check your form and send a copy to your partner to give them a chance to respond. They’ll tell you in writing when they’ve sent the form to your partner.

Applying online

You can apply for a divorce on GOV.UK.

Pay the fee

Usually, the person who applies for a divorce (also known as the ‘petitioner’) has to pay the fee.

If you're applying for the divorce, you’ll need to pay a £550 fee when you send your divorce application to the divorce centre. If you can’t afford the fee, find out if you can get help to pay it at GOV.UK.

If you’ve paid the fee but think your partner should pay it, you can tick a box on the form asking the court to consider asking your partner to pay it instead. If the court agrees, your partner will have to pay you the money back when your divorce has been finalised.

You’ll need to file your petition where you live, not where you are from or where you got married. So, for example, if you’re Irish and got married in Ireland but you live in England, you would need to get divorced in England.

If you can’t agree with your partner

If you can’t agree with your partner whether to get divorced or why you’re getting divorced, you could go to mediation. Mediation helps you reach an agreement between yourselves instead of it being court-imposed.

Find out more about mediation.

If you really can’t come to an agreement or if there are problems with costs such as who should pay the divorce fee, you should go to court - and you and your ex-partner should get legal advice from solicitors. 

A solicitor can help you decide on which of the 5 facts for divorce you want to use and tell you what evidence you’ll need. They can also speak to your ex-partner and their solicitor so you don’t have to.

A solicitor can also represent you in court - this means they'll talk for you so you don’t have to. It’s best to use a solicitor if you can - they can make sure you get the best result.

Make sure you get a solicitor who specialises in divorce. You might need to look outside your local area.

You can find a solicitor on Resolution.org.uk.

Your nearest Citizens Advice can also help you find a solicitor.

Think about what you want to ask your solicitor before you meet them and prepare a list in advance. Ask as many questions as you like.

When you meet with your solicitor you should take your marriage certificate, and passport or driving licence for ID.  You should also take a bank statement or utility bill that’s less than 3 months old and shows your address. 

You should ask your solicitor:

  • how long will the process take

  • how much it will cost
  • how often they will update you

  • what will happen when you go to court

Getting your client a solicitor

The Law Society (NI Law Society  in Northern Ireland) can help you find a local solicitor, or you could ask other advisors in your office. There might be local solicitors your colleagues have recommended before.

Tell your client that their nearest solicitor might not be the cheapest or best for them, so they might need to speak to more than one.

Tell your client to ask the solicitor:

  • what will the solicitor do for me

  • how much will this solicitor cost compared to others

  • what do I get for my money

  • how often has the solicitor handled this type of work

  • what can I do if something goes wrong, or I’m not satisfied with the service

Help paying for your divorce

Find out more about reducing the cost of your legal bill when you separate .

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