Divorce and Separation

A few frequently asked questions about divorce proceedings

June 12, 2019

1. How long does a divorce take, and will I have to go to court?

Generally speaking, a straightforward and uncontested divorce will take between 4 and 6 months from start to finish. You will remain married to your husband/wife until the divorce is finalised.

You will not have to attend court during the proceedings unless the divorce is contested, or unless there is a disagreement between you and your husband/wife about who should pay the costs of the divorce.

2. Can I get a divorce straight away?

No. You must be married for at least one year before divorce proceedings can take place. After this time you can apply for a divorce. The reasons for the divorce can however be based on matters which occurred during the first year of your marriage.

A marriage can be annulled within the first year if there are grounds.

3. What are the grounds for a divorce?

There is only one ground for a divorce – that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This can be proved in one of five ways:

  • Your husband/wife’s adultery
  • Your husband/wife’s unreasonable behaviour
  • If your husband/wife has deserted you (i.e. intentionally separated themselves from you without your consent and without reason) for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the divorce proceedings take place.
  • You and your husband/wife have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the divorce proceedings take place, and your husband/wife consents to the divorce.
  • You and your husband/wife have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years immediately before the divorce proceedings take place. Unlike a two year separation a five year separation does not require your husband/wife’s consent.

4. Can I be separated from my husband/wife even if we continue to live in the same house together?

Yes. You and your husband/wife can be separated and living apart from each other even whilst you remain living under the same roof. You must have separate lives from one another. There must be both a physical and mental separation from each other, i.e. your usual life/home together has ceased to exist.

5. Do I need to have a financial agreement with my husband/wife before I get divorced?

No, although it is sensible to do so. If you and your husband/wife reach a financial agreement this can be approved by the court as part of the divorce proceedings (although this will be separate to the divorce itself) in order to make the terms of the agreement binding.

If you do not deal with your financial arrangements then you will continue to have potential financial claims against your husband/wife in the future, and vice versa. This is the case even after your divorce has been finalised. These claims can include claims against each other’s estate after you die.

If you are dealing with your divorce yourself it is always advisable to seek expert legal advice in relation to your financial arrangements.

6. Do the arrangements for my children need to be considered and agreed before I can get divorced?

No. The arrangements for your children will not be considered in the divorce. The court will not have any automatic involvement in where your children should live, and how often they should spend time with each parent. The court’s view is that it is preferable for parents to make their own arrangements for their children. Parent’s are (where possible) encouraged to do this.

Generally speaking the court will only get involved in the arrangements for your children if there is a problem and either you or your husband/wife are not happy with what the arrangements are.

Even if there is a problem, court proceedings should be seen as a last resort. There are other, more amicable, options available to parents which can be used to sort out disagreements. One such option is family mediation. Mediation can also be used to help couples reach a financial agreement as well.

7. Do I need my marriage certificate?

Yes. Your original marriage certificate (or a certified copy of the original) will need to be sent to the court along with your divorce petition at the start of the proceedings. A photocopy of your marriage certificate will not be sufficient. The certificate will be retained by the court and not returned to you.

If you cannot find your original marriage certificate, depending on where you were married, you can either apply to the church where you were married or your local council for a certified copy of the certificate to be issued. There will be a small charge for this.

8. Can I still get divorced in England if I got married abroad?

Yes, as long as your marriage ceremony was valid in the country it took place, and this is not disputed by your husband/wife. If your marriage certificate is not in English it will need to be translated and accompanied by a statement of truth. The translated copy, along with the original certificate will then be sent to the court along with your divorce petition.

9. Does it make a difference to any financial settlement if I am the petitioner or the respondent to the divorce?

No. The divorce and sorting out your financial arrangements are dealt with separately. If you are the petitioner in the divorce it does not automatically mean you would have a greater entitlement to more of the money, just as if you are the respondent to the divorce it does not automatically mean you will receive less of the money.

Your husband/wife’s conduct during the marriage (if this is extreme) can however be one factor which is taken into account when looking at how the money should be divided.

10. Do I need a solicitor, and how much will my divorce cost?

You can deal with a divorce yourself. The forms are available for free on the Government website gov.uk/divorce. There are also useful guides for how to deal with/how to get a divorce and the divorce process etc. We always recommend that you still take advice from a family law solicitor, even if it is a one-off meeting.

Have a look at our page on legal fees for information about divorce costs.

One way to help keep the fees down is for you to do most of the work and for us to give you advice and support in the background. You can dip in and out of taking divorce advice from us only when it is needed. This means you do most of the straightforward administrative work yourself, but we are always available when you need support.