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Getting a divorce

This advice applies to Northern Ireland

You can get divorced without needing a solicitor if you and your ex-partner can agree you both want a divorce, and on the reason why.

You don’t need your partner’s consent to apply for a divorce if you’ve been married for 2 years - but you’ll save time and money if you both agree.

It’s important you decide what you do with your money and about your children, as this will be part of the divorce process.

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 contact the Domestic and Sexual Abuse helpline 24 hours a day on 0808 802 1414.

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. Otherwise, you don’t.

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

If you’re relying on 5 years without the consent of your partner, 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.

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 download the divorce form ('divorce petition template') and checklist of the information you must give on the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service. 

You can also find further details on which court your hearing could be at and what to expect in Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service divorce booklet .

Your nearest Citizens Advice can help you with the form. You can also go for an interview with the Courts Service - they’ll check your divorce form for you, and refer you to a solicitor if needed. It costs £55 for the interview.

Contact the Matrimonial Office to organise an interview.

Matrimonial Office

Telephone: 030 0200 7812

You’ll need to fill in your partner’s address on the form. Make a note on the form that their address is ‘unknown’ if you don’t know it.

If you don’t know your partner’s address or where they are, contact the Matrimonial Office. They can advise you about what forms you need to complete.

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, don’t name the person. If you do name them, you need to send 4 copies because 1 copy will be sent to that person. This will slow the divorce process down.

Send your form to:

The Master
Matrimonial Office
Family Division
Royal Courts of Justice
Chichester Street
Belfast BT1 3JF

Pay the fee

You’ll need to pay a £275 fee to the Matrimonial Office to start the divorce process. You can pay by:

  • debit or credit card

  • cash

  • postal order or cheque made payable to Northern Ireland Courts & Tribunals Service

If you’re paying by credit or debit card,  include a telephone number you can be reached on with your divorce application.  The Matrimonial Office will then phone you and ask you to provide bank details over the phone.

If you want to pay by cash, take your form and the fee to your local County Court, and they’ll submit the form and fee to the Matrimonial Office for you.

You can also find further details, including about which court will hear your divorce and what to expect in the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service divorce booklet .

If you think your partner should pay the fee, you can tick a box on the form  asking the court to consider asking your partner to pay it instead. Usually, the person who applies for a divorce (also known as the ‘petitioner’) has to pay the fee.

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 can’t agree with your partner about your divorce, you might have to give evidence and be questioned in court by your partner’s lawyer. You should speak to a solicitor, if you can.

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.

If the reason for your divorce is 5 years without the consent of your partner, you should probably get legal advice. 

You can search for a solicitor on the NI Law Society website

Your nearest Citizens Advice can help you too.  

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

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 ask your solicitor:

  • how long will the process take

  • 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 help with legal costs when you separate.

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