How to speed up a divorce

9 Nov 2021 | Lisa Pepper

6 steps to speed up the divorce process

For many people, once they have made the decision that their marriage is over, they want to have the legalities of the divorce finalised sooner rather than later. You can feel in limbo, knowing your marriage is at an end, but legally still having a spouse. We are aware of what a burden this can seem, and here at Osbornes Law, our divorce solicitors will make sure your divorce is dealt with as swiftly as possible.

In this article, we take a look at how long your divorce is likely to take, and the factors that can impact this. 

What factors can influence the timescale?

Most straightforward divorces take between four and six months from start to finish, but many divorces are not straightforward and there are a number of factors that can have an impact and extend this timescale, for example: 

Is the divorce consented to?

A divorce by mutual consent usually experiences fewer delays.  If your spouse chooses to contest the divorce petition then your case will have to be listed at least once in court for a judge to determine if the marriage has irretrievably broken down – whether the fact cited (unreasonable behaviour, for example) is accepted as evidence of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.  This can delay your divorce by several months. Your spouse may decide to contest the divorce for many reasons, but typically it is because they do not accept the fact cited for the divorce.  This can happen if you have proceeded on the basis of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. 

Has a financial settlement been reached?

If no agreement has been reached about the divorce settlement, then you may need to wait until you have a financial settlement before applying for Decree Absolute which dissolves your marriage. This is because of the effect of Decree Absolute on inheritance, pensions and tax. We can assist you in reaching an agreement over finances and discuss the options in terms of how you negotiate that, for example, if you wish to try mediation. The lengthiest and most expensive option is financial proceedings in Court. Whichever route you choose, you will have a legally binding agreement that both reflects your settlement and protects your interests. This enables you to proceed in your divorce. 

What are the steps in a divorce, and how long does each usually take?

In a standard divorce there are four main steps, namely:

  • Filing the divorce papers

This involves sending your petition and marriage certificate to the court.  It is usual for a solicitor to do this on your behalf.  The timescale will primarily depend on how soon you can get an appointment with your solicitor and how quickly they can draft the papers for you.  We recommend that we try to agree the draft petition with your spouse (save where there are competing jurisdictions in which to commence the divorce). It is realistic to expect this step to take between one to four weeks. 

  • The acknowledgement of service 

The divorce papers are sent to your spouse, who then has seven days to acknowledge the papers.  They must complete the acknowledgement of service form, which forms part of the divorce papers sent to them. If your spouse accepts the divorce, then you can proceed to the next step.  

Your spouse can do two things here which could cause a delay:

  1. Defend the divorce. If they do this, then they have 21 days within which to lodge their response and detailed reasons why they are defending the divorce.  The case will then be listed in court to allow a judge to decide if your divorce should be granted.  The availability of court dates varies and will depend on the court venue, so this can cause a significant delay in your case. 
  2. Ignore the papers. If they do this, then you will usually have to apply to court for deemed service.  This is an application based on your own evidence to show your former spouse has received the divorce papers but is ignoring them.  This typically is based on evidence from a conversation or perhaps a text message you received from your former spouse showing that they have got the papers.  Alternatively, you may need to consider using a process server to personally hand the divorce papers to your former spouse, or in some circumstances you may even have to ask the court to dispense with service.  This is usually only if your spouse cannot be located.  One of our lawyers will advise you on the best and speediest option for you should this circumstance arise.
  • Getting your Decree Nisi

You can apply for the Decree Nisi as soon as the acknowledgement of service is returned.  The Decree Nisi confirms that your papers are in order and the court sees no reason why your divorce should not be granted.  It typically takes between four and eight weeks to be granted, this is dependent on your former spouse not causing a delay in either of the ways we have outlined above. 

  • Getting your Decree Absolute

This is the final stage of your divorce.  Once you obtain your Decree Absolute your marriage is legally dissolved and at an end.  The law says that you must wait six weeks and one day from when your Decree Nisi was granted before you can apply for your Decree Absolute. The timeline for you to receive your Decree Absolute, after applying for it, is relatively quick, usually one to four weeks.  

Can I speed up the divorce process? 

There are a few ways you can help to speed up the divorce process.  

  1. Ensure that you provide all the correct information to your lawyer at the outset.  Details of your spouse’s current address, full name, and provide your marriage certificate.
  2. Try to reach an agreement with your spouse as to the contents of the petition, for example, can you agree on the costs sought in the petition?  Sometimes if a couple has agreed to attend mediation, they can use an early session to discuss the draft petition.
  3. Choosing the right basis for your divorce is important.  For example, if you proceed with a petition citing the fact of two years of separation with consent, you need to be sure your spouse will give that consent.
  4. Keep them informed of the steps you are taking during the divorce process.
  5. It can be worth assuring them that you won’t apply for Decree Absolute until a financial agreement has been reached so that they are not concerned about you being “in the driving seat” and able to take that step.
  6. The court service offers an online service for submitting divorce papers.  This has considerably improved the speed of the process. 

How we can help

We have a team of expert divorce lawyers in London who can discuss your particular circumstances and how this may impact your timescales for divorce. 

We deal with both UK and overseas clients.  If you are overseas or outside London, we have video conferencing facilities and a full online service to ensure you are kept up to date and fully appraised of your case and legal options.

Lisa Pepper is a partner in the family department specialising in Divorce, finance and children matters. She is also an accredited mediator. Lisa specialises in helping parties with considerable international assets. She is ranked as a leading lawyer in Chambers UK, Chambers HNW, The Legal 500, Spears HNW directory and Tatler Advisory.

Contact Lisa by filling in an online form.

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