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 sometimes made the process longer. 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 finalise is 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), is when the court finalises the divorce.

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 childcare 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 significantly, so it’s important to get it right.

How can you speed up the divorce process?

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 start the divorce when both parties are emotionally ready. This helps couples focus their minds on the negotiations that have to happen and decide on 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 you do. The divorce does not end your financial obligations 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, a divorce takes a long time because someone is dragging their heels on the financial arrangements. If you and your spouse can agree on how you split the finances and arrangements for the children, you can 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 can also apply for your Final Order much more quickly.

  1. Use a mediator

Divorce 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 must resolve and helps you resolve them amicably. The mediator does not tell you what to do but provides a productive space to talk through the issues, helping 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.

Contact us today if you want to get divorced quickly and with as little stress as possible. Our divorce solicitors can help you apply for a divorce, resolve any financial and child arrangement issues and support you through any disagreements 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 child arrangements. Claire has particular experience in complex high-net-worth cases, often involving a trust or inherited wealth element.

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    • Lisa Pepper is particularly recognised for her role as a mediator in complex cross-border disputes. Her practice also includes handling prenuptial agreements and issues arising from divorces. She is additionally skilled in Schedule 1 and other child arrangement matters.

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      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"

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

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    • "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."

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    • "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."

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    • "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"

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    • "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."

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

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

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

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