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.
Claire Andrews Partner
“Osbornes is a really good team that gives a first-class service which is both sensible and insightful but also supportive of the client’s needs.”
“Osbornes has incredible strength in depth across every area of family law. Areas of expertise include unravelling complicated trusts and handling pre-acquired wealth, to Children Act proceedings and advising on the financial provision for children.”
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:
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Mark Freedman frequently takes on high-value financial and children proceedings that involve complex tax, trust and accounting issues.
"Andrew Watson is respected and tenacious in matrimonial finance. You would want him on your team."
"David Leadercrammer is such an experienced wonderful lawyer who you would want on the other side of your case. He’s sensible, pragmatic and hugely experienced in money and children cases."
Andrew secured me the best financial settlement for my claim. He is a credit to Osbornes Solicitors.
"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"
"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."
"Claire Andrews is an associate to watch. Tenacious, diligent, professional and astute. She is very impressive."
"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."
"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."
"He is really experienced and wise. He has a lovely manner about him and clients feel safe with him."
"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”
"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"
Mark Freedman is intelligent and personable and has a good selection of high-net work cases.
"Exceptional value for money. Highly competent and reasonably priced. Mark Freedman: one of the best in the field."
"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."
Mark Freedman is a serious player. A fearless family law litigator, who protects his clients’ interests passionately.
Breadth of knowledge and willingness to go the extra mile is what makes it stand out. Mark Freedman – devoted to his clients
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.
"Mark is very experienced, competent, good with clients and takes a sensible approach to cases. He knows exactly what he's doing."
"An exceptional outfit. They take on difficult cases, fight hard and win."
"The team frequently deals with cross-border estates for high–net-worth individuals."
"Mark Freedman is a real heavyweight litigator who has dealt with some very significant cases."
"Mark Freedman boxes clever, keeps his powder dry and when it comes to the end game he negotiates a really good deal."
"Mark Freedman has a specific focus on high-net-worth divorces and finance cases where there are overseas assets and trusts."
"Lisa Pepper somehow manages to get parties to settle on matters where there isn’t much hope to start out with."
"Well-regarded family practice assisting clients with substantial matrimonial disputes and sensitive children proceedings."
"Mark Freedman draws acclaim for his work in high net worth divorce cases, including those involving company structures, family trusts and overseas assets."
"He never gives up. He fights for you to the end and has boundless energy."
Mark Freedman advises high-net-worth clients and knows his stuff.
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.
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.
[The Family Law department] handles significant matrimonial finance cases and complex nuptial agreements. Respected for its expertise in cross-border children law matters.
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.
"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.”
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