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How long does a divorce take?

If you have begun to consider a divorce, then it’s likely you will want to know how long a divorce takes.

In this article we offer some practical advice on how long a divorce takes, through to where to find more information on the divorce process.

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Regardless of how long a divorce takes, the breakdown of a relationship can be a difficult time. Naturally, you will want to know you are getting the best possible guidance. Our family law specialists will guide you through the process and offer straight answers and advice where you need it.

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How long does a divorce take in the UK?

As you might expect, divorce can take different lengths of time depending on the circumstances. A divorce can also take longer if there are any delays in the Court of Administration processing centre.

If you both agree that divorce is the route you would like to follow, either of you can petition for a divorce. This is an uncontested divorce. The legal basis for divorce, that “the marriage has broken down irretrievably”, will need to be proved by adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separation for more than two years.

To understand more about the legal basis for divorce, read our legal Q&A with Pavinder Khela: What are the legal grounds for divorce?

Once the grounds for divorce are established, getting a divorce can take approximately six months. However, this will vary hugely depending on what other arrangements need to be sorted during the divorce process – for example, joint assets, finances, ownership of your family home, parental responsibility and updating your wills and trusts for dependents.

You can find out more about your options formalising these arrangements – including how collaborative law and mediation may work for you – in our legal Q&A with Hegarty Solicitors’ Family Law Executive, Carl Russell.

The question ‘how long does a divorce take in the UK?’ does, however, need to be answered differently if you and your partner do not agree on divorce. This would be a contested divorce.

In a contested divorce, the Petitioner can apply for divorce if you have been separated for at least five years, even if your husband or wife disagrees.

What is the divorce process?

To begin with, it is important to establish if a divorce is the right route for you. There are alternative options that may be more applicable, for example, separation or annulment.

As explained, if you wish to pursue divorce, you must establish the legal basis for divorce – that “the marriage has broken down irretrievably”.

We offer a fixed fee initial meeting where you can talk to one of our highly qualified solicitors for initial advice for just £150 + VAT. Contact us to book your appointment.

From this point, you will need to start divorce proceedings by submitting a divorce petition, statement of arrangements about any children and the marriage certificate to court. Read about the divorce process and the steps that follow in our article: Stages of a divorce.

Divorce vs Separation

As establishing the legal grounds for divorce can take some time, some question whether the divorce process is right for them and if they should, instead, opt for separation.

A separation means that you are not a couple (and usually not living together). A legal separation, however, is different. A legal separation formalises financial, family and other arrangements in a separation agreement. Some couples who are splitting up opt for a legal separation as a stop-gap whilst their divorce is finalised.

However, whether you are separated or legally separated you will still be legally married to your spouse.

A divorce is defined as “the legal dissolution of a marriage”, meaning that you would no longer be married.

Divorce rate UK

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2017, there were 8.4 divorces of opposite-sex couples per 1,000 married men and women aged 16 years and over. This was the lowest divorce rate since 1973.

There were 338 divorces of same-sex couples in 2017.

Divorce laws in the UK are changing

However, in April 2019 the then Justice Secretary, David Guake, announced plans for new divorce laws in the UK. The changes to these divorce laws are focussed on ending the ‘blame game’ between a separating couple and, thus, reduce family conflict. Mr Guake acknowledged that, as we wait for the new laws to be introduced, many couples may be holding off formalising their divorce. As a result, we should expect an increase in divorce rates temporarily.

According to the BBC, Mr Guake explained: “The likelihood is there will be an increase because of that waiting list.”

He added international evidence indicated “once that initial spike has been dealt with… the divorce rate is unlikely to increase and it is likely to remain much the same.”

If you are considering a divorce, or would simply like to understand more about your options, you can speak with one of our highly qualified solicitors. Contact us to book your appointment.

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