Divorcing in England / Wales
In England or Wales, the divorce process has been revised to remove the concept of fault, (Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 – DDSA 2020) and to diminish the animosity and the conflict between the parties.
Below is a brief presentation of the new law and rules in force since the 6th of April 2022:
- joint applications for divorce are permitted (many have been waiting for this for a very long time): if you and your spouse/civil partner agree that your relationship has irretrievably broken down (meaning, it cannot be saved), you can apply together to the court for a divorce/dissolution order on the ground that the marriage/civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. Both parties are applicants, there is no respondent. Both parties can have the same solicitor. Careful: both parties have to cooperate until the divorce/dissolution is final.
- Without your spouse/partner consent, you can apply to the court to dissolve your marriage/civil partnership; your spouse/partner will not be able to contest a divorce/dissolution but she or he may apply for their financial position to be considered.
What are the steps?
Check that you can apply for a divorce/dissolution:
- Whatever your nationality, to divorce in England or Wales you must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least one year before applying.
- Jurisdiction: when seeking a divorce/dissolution in England and Wales you must satisfy the court that it has the power to deal with your case because of your links with the country. The usual basis for the court to have jurisdiction is where one or both parties are habitually resident in England and Wales
The process starts with filing your divorce/dissolution application at the court. With your application (joint or sole), you must provide to the court with the original copy of your marriage/civil partnership certificate and a certified translation if it is not in English. You also need to make a statement of truth to the court. Your statement will be considered by the court as enough evidence of the irretrievably breakdown of your relationship. The court fee to apply is £ 593 (joint or sole application).
Timescales: a 6 months’ process minimum:
- Your application (joint or sole) – Form D8 with your statement(s)
- Service (sending) of your application to your spouse/partner within 28 days – by email (usual email address) and 1st class post
- Cooling-off period of 20 weeks from the application date, not the service date – the cooling-off period allows you to discuss issues with your spouse regarding the financial consequences of your divorce/dissolution for yourselves and your children, and also all issues regarding your children (such as for example, their residence and the visiting rights for the other parent).
- At that end of the 20 weeks, you need to confirm to the court that you wish the application to continue. If it is a joint application, you both need to state to the court that you still wish to divorce.
- Once this is done, the court makes a conditional order (former decree nisi). The conditional order does not end your marriage/civil partnership.Another 6 weeks plus one day must elapse – the court checks that the parties have not reconciled, and that none of them has applied to prevent the conditional order being made a final order, and makes a final divorce/dissolution order (former decree absolute).
Bear in mind! The 26 weeks minimum delay starts from issuing the application to the court, not from the reception by the respondent of this application.
Can you dispute the divorce/dissolution?
No, except on the basis of jurisdiction, validity of your marriage or civil partnership, and if your marriage or civil partnership has already been legally terminated.
The consequences of your divorce/dissolution:
What if you disagree on issues related to the children ?
If, during the divorce proceedings you are unable to reach an agreement on issues regarding your children and your financial interests, you can ask the court to settle your differences.
In England and Wales court expects parents to sort out child care arrangements between themselves, even if this process takes them considerable time. However, you have the option to apply for a Court Order regarding contact or residence (child arrangement order) or any dispute regarding the child’s schooling or medical treatment. In extremely difficult situations, the judge will send a CAFCASS officer (The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services for England and Wales) to draw up a Court Welfare Report. They will talk to parents and children together and/or separately, and if necessary, to doctors, social services, schools, police department etc. The judge may ask to talk to them but this is not usual practice. The child must be at least 10 years old.
Maintenance for your children is explained in the Child maintenance page.
What if you disagree on issues related to your finances ?
The issue of the division of money and property is dealt with separately to the divorce/dissolution application. If you did not initiate the procedure, don’t lose any time, quickly contact a solicitor to discuss those issues, and preferably as soon as you receive the application.
If you are unable to reach an agreement, either through your lawyers, or by participating in a mediation, or by using the process of arbitration or collaborative law, the court can settle your disputes.
The court has a duty to consider all the circumstances of the case, (this can include the existence of marriage contracts or pre-marital agreements). The court can grant orders for one spouse/partner against the other, for example, an order for periodic payments or lump sum provision, an order regarding your property, a pension sharing order…
The jurisdiction of the court to make financial orders is found on the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973). The factors to be considered (found in s25(2), are mainly: income and earning capacity, property, and financial resources, whether assets are matrimonial or non-matrimonial, pre-acquired and post-separation assets, pensions, financial needs, the standard of living, the age of the parties and the duration of the marriage, any disability, the contributions to the marriage, and conduct in some cases).
If you reach an agreement, you can apply for a ‘financial order by consent’ to be submitted to the court.
Want to ask a question?
For a confidential discussion about your particular situation or requirements, you can contact Peggy Lethier by telephone or email: Contact