Family law

How long does the divorce process take in the UK?

How long the divorce process takes depends on a number of factors, as we explain in this brief guide.

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How long will my divorce take?

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How long will it take for my divorce to be finalised?

While many people believe that divorce takes years, the truth is that getting a divorce in the UK can take less than six months. That's because non contested divorces are a relatively straightforward process. It's just a case of completing and filing the relevant paperwork.

However, it's important to note that while bringing the marriage to an end can be achieved relatively quickly, the entire process often takes longer. This is particularly the case if couples struggle to resolve financial matters. So it's fairer to say that, on average, ending a marriage and coming to a financial settlement can take approximately a year.

The introduction of dedicated divorce centres

In a bid to make the divorce process more efficient, HM Courts and the Tribunal Service has changed the way in which legal separations are processed. In the past, divorce petitions had to be filed at local county courts and be checked by district judges. To speed the process up and allocate legal resources more effectively, this system has now been replaced. A total of 11 dedicated regional divorce centres now process divorce paperwork.

The aim of this is to speed up the first part of the divorce process. However, please bear in mind that the statutory wait of six weeks and a day remains in place between the granting of a decree nisi, which is a document stating that the court sees no reason why you can't be granted a divorce; and a decree absolute, which legally ends your marriage.

How can I speed up the divorce process?

The time it takes to get a divorce varies, and there are a number of things you can do to speed the process up. Here are a few of the most important:

Agree with your spouse on the reason for divorce before filing the petition

If you don't agree the reason beforehand and your spouse decides to contest the grounds for separation, the process can be much longer and more difficult. In cases like this, it may be necessary to go to court

If you're not on speaking terms with your spouse, contact their solicitor to try to reach an agreement on the content of the divorce petition.

Be prompt with your paperwork

Whether you're the petitioner or respondent in a divorce, make sure you complete the relevant paperwork promptly. This will help to minimise any wasted time when the process could be advancing.

Don't make any mistakes in your divorce papers

Any mistakes you make when completing your divorce papers could cause delays, of anything from four to eight weeks. This is one of the reasons why it's advisable to seek legal assistance when you're going through this process.

If you choose to go it alone and complete your own paperwork, you run the risk of making errors that could slow your divorce down considerably.

Getting the process started

Often, the biggest delay in divorces occurs at the very start of the process, before either party has even filled in a divorce petition. Before deciding to go ahead with a legal separation, most people will try to resolve the problems in their relationship and spend an amount of time doing so.  

Getting divorced is without a doubt a big decision to make and sometimes it can take a great deal of strength to take this step.

Agreeing finances and child arrangements

In many cases, the divorce process itself is straightforward. What often complicates matters and slows down a legal separation are the disagreements that can occur between couples on how finances should be settled and what child arrangements should be put in place.

Choosing to go to court to contest these issues can result in the divorce taking a long time and becoming costly. Because of this, it's a good idea to look for other ways to resolve these disagreements. For example, you can turn to collaborative law or mediation as a way of resolving any financial or child arrangement issues.

These approaches can help to prevent any disputes from escalating and make it easier for separating couples to come to agreements that they're both comfortable with and are in the best interests of their wider families.

Consider a pre-nuptial or a post-nuptial agreement

When people enter into a marriage, the last thing on their minds tends to be what will happen if their relationship breaks down. However, before taking this serious commitment, it's important to consider whether it would be beneficial to sign a pre-nuptial agreement. These documents set out how money should be organised during a marriage and how property and money is to be divided in the event that the marriage breaks down.

Such contracts, which couples enter into before marriage, can also help to prevent any possible divorce or separation in the future from becoming too complicated, drawn out and confrontational.

Even if you're already married, it's possible to put a contract in place. These contracts are called post-nuptial agreements and, like pre-nups, they allow you to plan financially for the event that your marriage should break down.

How Slater and Gordon can help you

Our family lawyers are highly trained and knowledgeable and have vast experience in all kinds of divorce cases: from the simple to the complex.

It takes skill to successfully navigate legal separations and to negotiate fair settlements that all parties are satisfied with.

We'll help you to achieve the best outcome possible in your divorce and ensure the process runs as efficiently and smoothly as possible.

To speak to a family law expert call us now on 0800 780 2730 or contact us and we will call you.

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