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How long does it take to get a divorce in the UK?

Here we discuss the average time it takes people in the UK to get divorced, how quick the divorce process can be and tips to prevent a long drawn out court battle.

31 March 2023

How long does it take for divorce to be final?

There’s a common misconception that a divorce is a long, arduous process. In reality, while some factors may impact the length of time, it can take as little as six months to finalise a divorce.

When both parties are agreeable and where financial settlements can be amicably reached; it's not unrealistic to suggest a divorce in these circumstances can be granted within six months. There’s a 20-week cooling off period, post issuing the application, before the conditional order can be granted.

The conditional order is an acknowledgement from the court that they agree both parties are entitled to a divorce. A six-week waiting period after receiving your conditional order applies before you can apply for the final order - which marks your divorce as complete.

How long do I have to wait for a divorce after getting married?

You may think that once you're married, you’re able to get a divorce at any time, even shortly after tying the knot. However, you can only apply for a divorce after your marriage has surpassed at least the one year mark.

Marriage, as much as it is an emotional union, is a legally recognised union between two people, bound by the law itself. Therefore, like the disintegration of any legal union, there are legally recognised factors and statuses that will change as a result. If your marriage hasn’t surpassed the one year mark, the rule is simply you’ll have to wait till after the one year period has passed.

Of course, feelings can change and situations can arise that change everything. In the circumstance you want to signify the breakup of your marriage or terminate it in some form before you can legally get a divorce you can either:

  • Apply for legal separation - by applying for legal separation, you're essentially declaring that the relationship has ended emotionally, although the marriage remains in place. You can then get a separation agreement where together you can begin to get your financial affairs in order before applying for divorce. This typically takes between 6 and 9 months to process through the judicial system.
  • Apply for an annulment - an annulment is a means of ending a marriage by essentially declaring the marriage void. You’ll have to select from a list of reasons as to why your marriage is either voidable or was legally invalid to begin with. The process, much like legal separation, takes around six to nine months.

How long does a no fault divorce take?

With the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce, you’re able to get a divorce without having to cite a reason for the divorce. You’ll claim on your divorce application that your marriage has broken down to one reason, and one reason alone; the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage.

So does a no fault divorce make the divorces quicker? Essentially, by removing the need to cite a reason for divorce, the process avoids ‘the blame game’, which used to come with having to cite a reason for divorce that can disrupt negotiations. There was also the matter of trying to provide evidence for the breakdown of a marriage, such as where adultery was cited as a reason for divorce, which could also impact the length of the proceedings.

Aside paving the way for more amicable divorces, a no fault divorce doesn’t necessarily make the process of divorce any quicker than it did before the recent divorce reforms came in.

Will my divorce take longer if my partner doesn't agree?

As part of the no-fault divorce reforms, the right to contest a divorce is now no longer part of UK divorce law. A partner can file for a divorce singularly, without agreement from their spouse.

There could potentially be areas where a partner who disagrees with the divorce can hold up stages, such as the financial settlement negotiations, in order to delay the divorce. Typically though, these situations can be solved via mediation where a third person (known as a mediator) will help the separating couple reach agreements related to money, property and their children.

How can I speed up the divorce?

After deciding to end your marriage, naturally, you may want to see the backend of it as quickly as possible so you can begin to move on. There are certain periods that must be adhered to in a divorce, such as the cooling off period, although there are other areas where your actions can help streamline the process. These include:

Be accurate and prompt with your paperwork - this will help to prevent any time being wasted on correcting errors in the application, or lengthening the process by delaying delivery of paperwork.

  • Utilise your time - use the periods of reflection wisely to agree on arrangements relating to finances, property and children.
  • File jointly if possible - if you and your partner both agree to divorce, filing jointly can quicken the process as the opposite party doesn’t need to be served with divorce papers in this scenario.

How long will financial settlement take to negotiate?

Financial settlements can be agreed during the minimum six month divorce period, assuming both parties are agreeable and use their period of reflection to decide on matters relating to money, property and children.

The court won’t necessarily split the assets 50/50, as they will look at a variety of factors relating to the marriage, such as:

  • If there are children to consider
  • Capital contributions to the marriage
  • Whether a term order of spousal maintenance is owed

A clean break settlement can quicken the divorce process, leading to a more streamlined divorce. Much like the name suggests, it gives couples a clean break from any financial ties to each other, and also restricts either partner making financial claims against the other in future.

A pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement can make the court proceedings quicker because you’ve essentially agreed the allocation of assets prior to the divorce. Therefore, you can bypass the typical financial settlement negotiation. Although a prenuptial agreement can be contested by a partner, there needs to be a solid reason presented to a judge to consider invalidating it.

How long does a divorce take with a child?

You don’t need to make child arrangements prior to finalising a divorce. Child arrangements can be settled out of court, and post-divorce through mediation with a family solicitor.

Despite the fact that child arrangements can be handled post-divorce, many couples decide on custody and living arrangements of children during the divorce proceedings. This is because the children can potentially be a factor in the financial settlement, with considerations such as custody and child arrangements impacting negotiations.

The court will try to resolve matters relating to children quickly. However, it can take between six to twelve months for the court to conclude arrangements after the submission of a Child Arrangement Order.

How can Slater and Gordon help?

We understand divorce can be an emotional and stressful process. Our family law solicitors are there to support you, and have vast experience in all kinds of divorce cases - from the simple to the complex.

  • As one of the largest special legal services firms in the UK, we’re able to offer an end to end service for all your legal needs and independent financial planners for compensation protection
  • We’re highly ranked in independent legal guides
  • Many of our family lawyers are members of Resolution - an organisation committed to resolving family law cases constructively
  • We’re accredited by industry specialists
  • We offer both fixed fee and flexible pricing divorce services and will help you get the outcome you’re looking for in the most cost-effective way.
  • We work closely with a range of dedicated charities throughout England, Scotland and Wales who offer a full range of practical advice and support

To find out more, simply contact us on 0330 107 5088. Alternatively, send your email to Georgina Chase, Head of Family Law. Georgina has unparalleled expertise in this area, and was recognised as a 'Recommended Lawyer' by the Legal 500 in 2023. See what a recent client has to say about their divorce experience with Slater + Gordon:

“Georgina was amazing, took time to explain the whole separation/divorce process & covered so much in the time we had, actually went over my allocated time by 10 mins, really making sure I understood the information. 10 out of 10 with the whole service.” - review sourced via Trustpilot.

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