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  • If you have begun to consider a divorce, then it’s likely you will want to know how long a divorce takes.

    Regardless of how long a divorce takes, the breakdown of a relationship can be a difficult time. 

    Naturally, you will want to know you are getting the best possible guidance. 

    Our family law specialists will guide you through the process and offer straight answers and advice where you need it.

    Personal Family 1

    Your questions answered

    How long does a divorce take in the UK?

    As you might expect, divorce can take different lengths of time depending on the circumstances. A divorce can also take longer if there are any delays in the Court of Administration processing centre.

    If you both agree that divorce is the route you would like to follow, either of you can petition for a divorce. This is an uncontested divorce. The legal basis for divorce is that “the marriage has broken down irretrievably” and you would simply have to sign a statement to confirm this.

    There is a mandatory 20-week ‘cooling-off’ period between the date the application is issued and the date you can apply for the Conditional Order. This means that, once you factor in the mandatory six weeks between the Court making the Conditional Order and being able to apply for the Final Order, a divorce will take no less than six months from start to finish.

    It is usually advisable that you do not finalise the Divorce until the other arrangements have been resolved – for example, joint assets, finances, ownership of your family home and updating your wills and trusts for dependents.  This can result in the Divorce not being finalised until quite some time after the Petition was issued.

    You can find out more about your options formalising these arrangements – in our legal Q&A with Family Solicitor, Chris Brown.

    The question ‘how long does a divorce take in the UK?’ does, however, need to be answered differently if your partner chooses to defend the divorce because the Divorce will follow a different procedure to an undefended divorce.  Fortunately, defended divorces are rare due to the costs involved.

    What is the divorce process?

    To begin with, it is important to establish if a divorce is the right route for you. There are alternative options that may be more applicable, for example, separation or annulment.

    We offer a fixed fee initial meeting where you can talk to one of our highly qualified solicitors for initial advice for just £250 + VAT plus £13.50 for an ID check. Contact us to book your appointment.

    Read about the divorce process and the steps that follow in our article: Stages of a divorce.

    Divorce vs Separation

    As establishing the legal grounds for divorce can take some time, some question whether the divorce process is right for them and if they should, instead, opt for separation.

    A separation means that you are not a couple (and usually not living together). A legal separation, however, is different. A legal separation formalises financial, family and other arrangements in a separation agreement. Some couples who are splitting up opt for a legal separation as a stop-gap whilst their divorce is finalised.

    However, whether you are separated or legally separated you will still be legally married to your spouse.

    A divorce is defined as “the legal dissolution of a marriage”, meaning that you would no longer be married.

    Divorce rate UK

    The most recent divorce statistics from the Office of National Statistics show a 30% decrease in the number of divorces since a peak in 2003.

    In 2019, divorce rates contradicted this trend, with an 18.4% increase on 2018 figures.

    However, this increase likely reflects a backlog of casework from 2018 being processed in 2019 translating into a higher number of completed divorces in 2019. Read more about UK divorce rates

    Divorce laws in the UK are changing

    The UK’s divorce laws are undergoing a transformation. 

    From the 6th April 2022 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (the ‘DDSA’) brings substantial changes to the divorce process in England and Wales. The Act provides for the biggest reform of divorce law in fifty years and aims to reduce conflict between couples legally ending a marriage or civil partnership.

    Talk to us

    If you are considering a divorce, or would simply like to understand more about your options, you can speak with one of our highly qualified solicitors.

    Key contacts

    Chris Brown


    Partner | Head of the Family Department

    Pavinder Khela

    Associate Solicitor | Family Law

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