How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in England and Wales?

If you have made the decision to end your marriage, it is likely you will want the divorce process to be over as quickly as possible; but, how long does a divorce take?

In this guide, we’ll talk you through the process of a divorce and how long each step takes. 

How long do you have to be separated before getting a divorce in the UK?

Under the new ‘no fault’ divorce law, which came into action on the 6th April 2022, in England and Wales there is no requirement to be separated for any period of time before getting divorced. 

Divorce process timescales

The legal process of a divorce can take a minimum of 6 months, providing all the paperwork is completed on time. 

Every divorce case is different and it depends on the individual circumstances. To judge how long a divorce will take, it’s important to understand the complexity of the case and how long each step takes.

How long does it take to fill in a divorce application form?

The first step in any divorce is completing the online application form. This requires the applicant to confirm that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and to state whether it is a joint or sole application. 

Applicants must include both parties’ names, contact details and a copy of their original marriage certificate.  Applicants must also confirm that the Family Court has jurisdiction to deal with the case.  This is usually done by confirming that one or both of the parties live in England or Wales.

The online form can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to complete, depending on your level of familiarity with online applications and your ability to understand legal questions. 

How long does it take to file a divorce application?

Once you have completed the online application, if you submit it online, it will automatically be processed by the relevant Family Court. If you have submitted a paper application, you will need to send it to your local family court.

With both applications you will receive a notice confirming the application has been issued and a case number. You will also receive a copy of the application. 

It can take as little as 10 days for the court to process an online application and formally issue you a divorce. If you sent an application by post, it can take up to a month for your divorce to be issued. 

How long do you have to respond to a divorce application?

For a sole application, the court will send an “Acknowledgement of Service” and a Notice of Proceedings to the spouse who did not make the application, who is referred to as the respondent. 

On receiving these documents, the respondent will have a period of 14 days to complete and return the Acknowledgement of Service. 

In a joint application, both parties will need to complete their details and agreement that the marriage has broken down, with one party commencing the online process and the other being prompted to confirm all details once they have set up their own account. 

How long does it take to get a Conditional Order?

Once the court has issued your divorce, you will have to wait at least 20 weeks before you can apply for the Conditional Order. This 20 week period is intended to give time for reflection in which both parties can consider their current position and ensure that they both wish to proceed with the divorce. 

Once the Conditional Order is issued, it confirms that the court finds no reason why the parties involved should not obtain a divorce. The next step is to apply for a Final Order to complete the divorce. 

How long does it take to get a Final Order?

Once the Conditional Order has been issued, the divorcing parties will have to wait a further 6 weeks and 1 day until the Applicant can apply for the Final Order. 

When the Final Order is received, the divorce is legally binding and complete. 

How long does a financial settlement take?

When going through a divorce, couples will need to come to a financial agreement which includes property, investments, shares, pensions and personal belongings.

The sharing of these assets uses Section 25 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 as a reference point to ensure assets are fairly divided based on the incomes and assets of both individuals. 

Given the nature of what needs to be assessed, reaching a financial settlement can take anywhere between 6 months to several years. 

How long does a no fault divorce take?

The amount of time it takes for a no fault divorce largely depends on how complicated the sharing of assets and the couple’s financial situation is as it it generally advisable not to conclude the divorce until a financial order is in place. 

In the simplest terms, a divorce would take 6 months but if there are assets to resolve then it would generally take longer. 

Can anything affect the timescale of a divorce?

The timescale of a divorce can vary depending on various different factors. 

There are common issues that may delay the divorce proceedings, such as trying to locate an ex-spouse when you don’t have their address or the ex-spouse failing to co-operate and return the Acknowledgement of Service or it being advisable to place the divorce on hold pending reaching a financial settlement. 

Other factors are based on whether you submitted a joint or sole application. You may assume filing together would be quicker, but it can actually slow the process down if either party delays in returning documents. 

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

Yes, unfortunately if your partner doesn’t agree with the divorce it can delay the process, making it take much longer. 

If your partner does not return the Acknowledgement of Service, you can still progress with the divorce but you will need to satisfy the court that your spouse has received the divorce papers. 

You can either:

  1. Re-serve the divorce papers to your spouse either via the post or in person.
  2. Apply for Deemed Service 
  3. Apply to Dispense with service 

If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on a divorce, or you’re struggling to go through the divorce process on your own, then we suggest seeking the expert advice of our team at VM Family Law. 
Our family law solicitors can help you decide on the best route to take, and we can contact your spouse and their solicitor so you don’t have to. Contact us today to see how we can help you through this difficult time.

Our goal is to help our clients solve their family legal matters as smoothly as possible.

Wiselaw logo

VM Family Law is listed as a Leading Lawyer by Wiselaw

Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – VM Family Law Ltd - No. 809780

VM Family Law Ltd is a limited company, registered in England and Wales. Company Number:12777521. VAT Number:379075066

Website: Dylan Robinson © 2024. VM Family Law Ltd. All rights reserved. | Privacy policy