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How long does the divorce process take?

Please note that the following guide only applies to divorces started before 4pm on 5th April 2022. For divorces after this date, no fault divorce now applies.

There is a common misconception that a quickie divorce is possible in this country. Divorcing couples should also be careful about the exaggerated claims made by companies offering fast DIY divorces. However, even uncontested and uncomplicated divorces will take at least four to six months to finalise. The exact length of time depends on various factors and the particular circumstances of the case.

What are the timescales for a divorce?

There are certain timeframes in place that mean the finalising of a divorce takes a minimum of several months.

When can you file for a divorce?

A couple must have been married for at least a year before you can file for divorce. The party wishing to file for divorce (the petitioner) has to show the marriage has irretrievably broken down due to one of five grounds, and these too will affect how long a party needs to wait before it can file for divorce:

  • Adultery- no extra time period but the other party has to admit this, which can result in a delay if denied.
  • Unreasonable behaviour- no extra time period.
  • Desertion for at least two years.
  • Separation for at least two years with consent.
  • Separation for at least five years without consent.

How long does it take to respond?

The party that receives the divorce papers (the respondent) must reply using the Acknowledgement of Service form within eight days (seven days if the application is done via the online portal). Where the divorce is going to be contested then the respondent has 21 days to answer the divorce petition to state what they disagree on. This will result in a court hearing and so will mean that the process takes a lot longer.

How long does it take to get the decree nisi and decree absolute?

The petitioner can apply for the decree nisi if the divorce is not defended or the court has granted permission. The decree absolute can be applied for six weeks and a day after the decree nisi is issued. However, parties generally wait until they have come to an agreement in relation to finances and arrangements for any children before they apply for the decree absolute. This can take between several months to a year and a half depending on how complicated the issues are.

What can speed up the divorce process?

Uncontested divorces

Where the divorce (or more likely the fact relied upon for the divorce) are not disputed then this will ensure a swifter resolution, since the courts will not be involved. Therefore, agreeing with the other party on the grounds for divorce will speed up the process.

Pre-nuptial agreement

There are many benefits of a properly constructed pre-nuptial agreement including ensuring matters are dealt with quicker since any issues of contention have already been decided.

Come to an agreement over finances and child arrangements

There are various elements here that can result in a quicker divorce process:

  • If the parties can agree finances and child arrangements between themselves rather than via the courts.
  • Full and frank disclosure from the start by both parties.
  • The use of mediation or other non-litigious methods to resolve any conflict.
  • Ensuring all timeframes are met and papers served promptly.

Checking there are no mistakes in the divorce papers before serving.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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