How To Get Divorced – FAQ

Here at Higgins Miller we work with clients on matters of family law such as adoption, children disputes and wills and probate. One of the things we’ve learned over the years working with clients is that the more information a client has, the easier they will find it to understand and cope with whatever legal issues they find themselves facing. That’s why we’ve put together this FAQ on the question of how to get divorced. The arrival of no-fault divorces in 2022 means that the basic question of how to get divorced is now much simpler and less combative than it used to be, but if you’re someone deciding that a relationship has ended and wondering exactly how to get divorced, we hope the following questions and answers are helpful.   

How do I start the divorce process?

There are three components to the divorce process:

  • Ending the marriage through the divorce
  • Reaching an agreement on financial matters such as dividing assets and the paying of any maintenance
  • Reaching an agreement on how any children of the marriage will be looked after – i.e. which parent they will live with

At your first meeting with a solicitor at Higgins Miller asking how to get divorced we will discuss issues set out in the Family Law Protocol. These issues include whether the access to joint bank accounts needs to be limited, whether there is any likelihood of reconciliation, the possibility of any abuse having taken place, if there is a chance of the children being taken abroad and other issues which might complicate proceedings going forward. The actual process starts with the applicant – and an application can be made jointly – submitting a divorce application to the court, and our solicitors will complete the relevant documentation for clients.  

The financial agreements can be agreed between both parties at any time, although they cannot be finalised until the conditional order (formerly known as a ‘decree nisi’) has been granted.  We will always advise couples asking how to get divorced to come to an amicable agreement on the issue of how any dependent children will be looked after, as the alternative involves the court deciding the arrangements, which only adds to the stress and expense of the experience.   

How does the process work?

The process of how to get divorced starts with the applicant submitting the application, and a copy being sent to the ‘respondent’, together with a Notice of Proceedings. The respondent is asked to return an Acknowledgement of Service, confirming receipt of the documents. There then follows a period of 20 weeks before a conditional order can be applied for, which acts as a cooling off period. Six weeks and one day after the conditional order has been given by the court, the applicant can apply for the final order. When the final order has been granted, the divorce becomes official and each party is free to remarry if they wish to.    

How long does a divorce take?

If the process is straightforward – i.e. neither party throws up objections – it should take between six and eight months. This depends upon both parties dealing promptly with all of the court processes involved. In some exceptional circumstances – such as one party wanting to remarry as quickly as possible – it may be possible to speed the process up, but this will involve an increase in costs. 

In many cases, the negotiations on financial matters can take longer than this, but it is possible to have a divorce finalised before reaching a financial agreement. Whether this is advisable or not is something to discuss with your solicitor when asking how to get divorced.  

Does it matter who starts the proceedings?

The question of who made the original application shouldn’t impact on the process of the divorce. If only one of the parties wants the divorce, then they will be the party making the application, and in general terms it will be their solicitors driving the process forward by doing things such as chasing up any documents which are not returned promptly enough. The applicant will need to pay the court fee which is currently set at £593, although they can ask the court to order the respondent to pay some or even all of these costs.  

What do I need to prove in order for the divorce to be granted?

Prior to the introduction of no fault divorces in April 2022 the party seeking a divorce needed to prove that there were grounds for that divorce, such as desertion, adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Following the change in the law, however, it is no longer necessary to provide a reason why the marriage has broken down irrevocably.  

Do I need to be married a certain length of time before getting a divorce?

You need to have been married for at least 12 months before you can get divorced. If a marriage breaks down before this milestone, you may opt to separate and agree on issues such as childcare and financial arrangements before starting a divorce application. 

Is mediation a legal requirement of the divorce process?

Seeking mediation isn’t required by law, but divorcing couples asking how to get divorced are expected to consider it. Mediation is a process by which a trained mediator works as an impartial go-between to help the parties in the divorce negotiate an agreement on issues such as childcare and financial arrangements. The process is designed to be less confrontational than either appearing in court or communicating via solicitors, and will also help to keep costs down.   

Do I have to use a solicitor to get divorced?

The short answer to this is no, but if the divorce in question involves a significant amount of money or shared assets, or the welfare of children, then working with solicitors is strongly recommended. Experts such as those at Higgins Miller will be able to explain clearly exactly what a reasonable financial settlement looks like, as well as helping to negotiate agreements around children and financial arrangements and ensuring that all court documents are completed correctly and filed on time.  

How much will the divorce cost?

The good news for anyone worrying that the cost of a divorce could spiral out of control is that Higgins Miller act on such cases on a fixed fee basis. At the time of writing, a single payment of £395 will cover being instructed, obtaining the divorce papers and all other steps up to the Final Order. This will need to be paid in addition to the current court fee of £593. A solicitor cannot act for both parties in a divorce case, so only one can be represented by Higgins Miller. 

Is Legal Aid still available for divorce cases?

Although Legal Aid has been withdrawn for the vast majority of divorce cases, it may still be available for those cases in which a spouse or children have been the victims of domestic abuse. 

If you want to ask more questions relating to how to get divorced please call us on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected]. We’ve recently passed our Cyber Essential accreditation, something which demonstrates our forward-thinking attitude and determination to remain ahead of the competition. The first 20-minute appraisal is provided free of charge, and we’ll give you the first appointment for a fixed fee, so you don’t have to worry about how much our advice is going to cost. If you want to explore our wider charging system then please take a look here.