How Long Does a Divorce Take?

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in the UK?

A divorce can be a long and difficult process, and it is important to know what to expect before you begin. On this page, we discuss how long a divorce typically takes in England and Wales as well as some of the things that can affect the length of the process.

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What’s the minimum length of time to get a divorce?

While the introduction of no-fault divorce has made it easier to get a divorce, it has made the process longer in some cases. No-fault divorce is a divorce that doesn’t require a reason or evidence of wrongdoing by either party.

Under the new rules, the minimum time for a divorce to be finalised in 26 weeks. This is because of two mandatory waiting periods:

  1. A 20-week period between applying for a divorce and receiving the Conditional Order (previously called a Decree Nisi). This cooling-off period gives couples time to reflect on their decision to divorce and decide whether they want to try to save the marriage.
  2. A six-week period between receiving the Conditional Order and the Final Order (previously called the Decree Absolute), which is when the divorce is finalised by the court.

What’s the average time to get a divorce?

While the minimum time for a divorce is 26 weeks, some divorces will take longer. This is generally due to the ancillary issues that arise with a divorce, such as dealing with the financial arrangements. Various things can slow the divorce down, including:

  • How quickly the paperwork is dealt with
  • How you and your spouse respond to the divorce, for example, whether you are willing to work together to resolve your differences with the help of a mediator if necessary
  • The number of issues that need to be resolved, such as financial arrangements or arrangements for children
  • How complex your situation is – generally, the wealthier a couple is, the more complicated the divorce tends to be as there is a wide range of property, business holdings and other assets to locate, value and share out
  • Whether you agree on a settlement or if your matter has to be dealt with by the court
  • How busy the courts are

While you may have heard horror stories about divorces taking several years, this is extremely rare. Even if there are complicated financial or child care negotiations, the upper limit is around 18 months in most cases. This may seem like a long time, but it’s important to remember that the arrangements will affect your family in significant ways, so it’s important to get it right.

How can you make the process shorter?

If you want to get divorced as quickly as possible, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process:

  1. Apply online and apply together

Under the new no-fault divorce system, for the first time, couples can jointly apply for a divorce. On a practical level, this means that you can avoid any delays waiting for the papers to be served on the responding party and for them to acknowledge the application. More significantly, applying jointly means you will be starting the divorce when both parties are emotionally ready to do so. This helps couples focus their minds on the negotiations that have to happen and decide practical issues quickly and constructively.

Applying online through the government’s divorce portal can help to avoid delays caused by paperwork errors and postal delays.

  1. Co-operate on the finances and child arrangements

While you don’t have to sort out the financial arrangements before your divorce is finalised, we recommend that you do. The divorce itself does not end the financial obligations you have to your ex-spouse. A Financial Order not only ensures that your assets are divided fairly but also stops your spouse from making a claim against you in the future.

Often, when a divorce is taking a long time, it’s because someone is dragging their heels on the financial arrangements. If you and your spouse can agree on how you split the finances, as well as arrangements for the children, you will be able to avoid going to court. This can save a lot of time waiting for a hearing date, especially if your divorce coincides with a busy period in the court’s calendar. You will also be able to apply for your Final Order much more quickly.

  1. Use a mediator

Mediation can make a huge difference to the speed of your divorce. This is where a trained, neutral third party guides you through the issues you need to resolve and helps you resolve them amicably. The mediator does not tell you what to do but provides a productive space for you to talk through the issues, helping to defuse potential conflicts.

Divorce mediation can cover a wide range of issues, such as the distribution of property, child arrangements, child support, spousal maintenance and pensions, among other areas. Lack of communication about these issues tends to slow divorces down. A mediator can help you and your spouse talk openly so you can reach an agreement in much less time.

If you want to get divorced quickly and with as little stress as possible, contact us today. Our divorce solicitors can help you to apply for a divorce, resolve any financial and child arrangement issues and support you through any disagreements you have with your spouse. We offer a free, no-obligation chat for all new clients. Please get in touch with our friendly team.

Claire Andrews is a partner in the family department and specialises in divorce. Claire can advise on obtaining the best financial settlement for your needs and on children arrangements. Claire has particular experience in complex high net worth cases often involving a trust or inherited wealth element.

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    • Andrew secured me the best financial settlement for my claim. He is a credit to Osbornes Solicitors.

      Family Department Client

    • "Lisa Pepper was recommended to me as non-nonsense and able to help me with a difficult and confrontational divorce. She more than lived up to that – she was practical, collected and always available with a clear opinion and suggestions of how to move forwards. She also was open and helpful about costs and how to mitigate them"

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Mark Freedman is a very capable lawyer, renowned for not being a pushover and pushing his clients’ cases as much as he can, but will always talk sensibly about settlement. He is among the best – tenacious, good judgment and tactically aware."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Claire Andrews is an associate to watch. Tenacious, diligent, professional and astute. She is very impressive."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Mark Freedman is a dynamic and highly experienced family lawyer who fights extremely hard for his clients and is always in their corner, thus ensuring their loyalty and confidence. In a trial you would always want him on your side."

      Legal 500 2021

    • "She has impressed me as someone who fights my corner but also understands the importance of resolving issues without unnecessary escalation. She is calm and reassuring."

    • "Her mediation practice is exceptional; she is also a great solicitor and has a breadth of skill which is really useful."

      Chambers UK 2021

    • "He is really experienced and wise. He has a lovely manner about him and clients feel safe with him."

      Chambers UK

    • "Jo Wescott is top notch and widely recognised as a rising star throughout the profession. She brings a winning combination of great judgement, an immense work ethic, and a relaxed and charming way with opponents and clients alike. Someone you want on your side”

      Legal 500 2021

    • "Osbornes is pre-eminent for family law in North London. Mark Freedman is a real rainmaker. He is an excellent lawyer and has a top-notch practice"

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases.

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • "Exceptional value for money. Highly competent and reasonably priced. Mark Freedman: one of the best in the field."

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • "Client-focused. Ready to fight the clients’ corner, but also ready where possible to steer client from unnecessary dispute. Mark Freedman – very experienced, with good instinct for the eventual result. Clients love him and he thinks ahead and directs the client to the best result for the client."

      Legal 500 2020 - Mark Freedman

    • Mark Freedman is a serious player. A fearless family law litigator, who protects his clients’ interests passionately.

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    • Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues. Sources praise the "tenacity and common sense" he brings to challenging disputes.

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    • "Mark is very experienced, competent, good with clients and takes a sensible approach to cases. He knows exactly what he's doing."

      Chambers & Partners Directory 2020, Mark Freedman

    • "An exceptional outfit. They take on difficult cases, fight hard and win."

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    • "The team frequently deals with cross-border estates for high–net-worth individuals."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman is a real heavyweight litigator who has dealt with some very significant cases."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman boxes clever, keeps his powder dry and when it comes to the end game he negotiates a really good deal."

      The Legal 500

    • "Mark Freedman has a specific focus on high-net-worth divorces and finance cases where there are overseas assets and trusts."

      The Legal 500

    • "Lisa Pepper somehow manages to get parties to settle on matters where there isn’t much hope to start out with."

      The Legal 500

    • "Well-regarded family practice assisting clients with substantial matrimonial disputes and sensitive children proceedings."

      Chambers UK

    • "Mark Freedman draws acclaim for his work in high net worth divorce cases, including those involving company structures, family trusts and overseas assets."

      Chambers UK 2019

    • "He never gives up. He fights for you to the end and has boundless energy."

      Chambers UK

    • Mark Freedman advises high-net-worth clients and knows his stuff.

      Legal 500

    • Highly regarded for his experience as a litigation and mediation expertise, Mark Freedman is tenacious and determined. Clients really feel that he is fighting their corner.

      Chambers UK

    • Andrew handled a very complex, 3 year legal battle for me, with a tremendous amount of patience and professionalism. He is very approachable, always kept me up to date, by phone and e-mail, and responded very quickly to my queries with excellent advice, sound strategic thinking and strong letters to put the other side under pressure. With top contacts for barristers, joint experts and mediation.

      Family Department Client

    • [The Family Law department] handles significant matrimonial finance cases and complex nuptial agreements. Respected for its expertise in cross-border children law matters.

      Chambers UK

    • Mark Freedman represents high net worth clients in complex financial disputes. Sources say that "he's a determined negotiator who'll always do the very best for his clients.

      Chambers UK

    • "Mark Freedman receives a lot of instructions from clients based abroad, often relating to complex divorce proceedings. Sources say: “His main strengths are his enthusiastic passion for the job in hand and his total dedication to his clients.”

      Chambers UK

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