“Divorce is never painless and we work as hard as we can to make each divorce go through as smoothly as possible but do think carefully about whether this is what you really want for you and those you love.”

Laura Srodon LLB
Director, Solicitor, Notary Public

Laura Srodon LLB

Divorce Fact Page Q&A

Here are some frequently asked questions:

What is the minimum length of my marriage before I can start a divorce?

A  12 months: you cannot start a divorce until you have been married for this time.

What are the grounds for divorce?

A  There is only one ground, that your marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’. However this is shown by providing one or more of the following 5 facts:

  • Your husband/wife has committed adultery, it is not more than 6 months since you found out about this, and you feel you can no longer remain married
  • Your husband/wife has behaved unreasonably, and you feel you can no longer remain married
  • Your husband/wife has deserted you more than 2 years ago (this fact is hardly ever used)
  • You have lived apart for over 2 years and both agree to the divorce
  • You have lived apart for over 5 years

Please note that the courts are only concerned with whether or not one of these facts has been proved and that there is evidence to show this: they are rarely concerned with other background information, nor whether your behaviour has also contributed to the difficulties.

Q  Is there any point in defending a divorce?

A  Usually the answer is no. Even if you and your husband/wife do not agree on what has happened between you, if one of you feels strongly enough to start divorce proceedings, it is very unlikely that your marriage will be successful in the future. You cannot turn the clock back, unfortunately. Also, defended divorces involve court hearings in public, examining very personal matters which you may prefer others not to know about, and this can involve expensive legal costs.

How long does an undefended divorce take?

A  Normally about 4 or 5 months from start to finish. This includes the time taken for the court to process the papers, and a minimum wait of at least 6 weeks at the end, between the ‘decree nisi’ (=provisional divorce), and the ‘decree absolute’ when it is made final. Neither of you can remarry until the decree absolute has been made.

Do I need to go to court?

A  Usually no, unless there is a dispute about costs, arrangements for children, or finances.

Q  I have lost my marriage certificate

A  No problem if you were married in the United Kingdom. Depending on where you were married and whether it was in a church or not, you can normally obtain a duplicate for about £10 from the Superintendent Registrar for the area where you were married, or from the priest or other authorised person where you were married, or from the General Register Office. Please note that you must have an officially issued copy of your marriage certificate: a photocopy you have made yourself is not enough. If you were married overseas, you will need to produce the marriage certificate with a translation into English if it is in another language.

What about arrangements for my children?

A  It is best to agree on where and with whom they will live, otherwise you will need to apply to the court for a residence order. Similarly it is advisable to try to agree the arrangements for them to spend time with their parent they are not living with, to avoid the court imposing its own decision. If agreement is not possible, we can help you deal with this, and will explain what is involved and the cost to you. For more information please see our dedicated child support page.

Do I have to agree financial and property arrangements?

A  These do not have to be dealt with before the divorce, but it can be helpful to do so promptly. If you remarry then that will limit your claims to money or property, so it makes sense to settle arrangements first. We are happy to explain what is involved and the cost of our dealing with these for you.

Q  How will my pensions be affected?

A  Please see our dedicated Pensions & Divorce page