How long will my divorce take?
People often ask how long a divorce will take but this is a very difficult question to answer as so much depends on the circumstances of the individuals involved. There are however some stages of a divorce which do have strict timetables.
Stages of a divorce
Stage 1. See A Solicitor & Start Divorce Proceedings
After one year of marriage, either spouse may start the divorce and this can be as a sole application or a joint application. The divorce application and statement of arrangements about any children are completed and sent to court with the marriage certificate.
In most cases the divorce application will be made online using the divorce portal but the paper process is still available to those who need it.
We can help to make this application to avoid potential complications or delays later in the proceedings. We offer a fixed fee initial meeting where you can talk to one of our highly qualified solicitors for initial advice about your case for just £150 + VAT. Contact us to book your appointment.
Stage 2. Court Processes Application
Within a few days, the court will send a copy of the petition and arrangements to the other spouse if a sole application was made, and ask them to complete an acknowledgement of service. With a joint application, the Court does not need to send the application to the other spouse.
Stage 3. Response Of Respondent
- Within 14 days – the Respondent should send to Court a form called ‘Acknowledgement of Service’. The form asks the Respondent whether they intend to defend the application, whether any claim for costs is disputed and whether orders affecting any children are sought.
- Within 28 days of receipt (longer if the documents have been sent abroad) – whether or not the Respondent has returned the ‘Acknowledgement of Service’, the Respondent must, if they intend to defend the application, file a ‘Defence’ (called an Answer). The application then becomes defended and the procedure outlined below does not apply. Defended divorce proceedings resulting in a fully contested hearing are very rare, but will inevitably cause a delay in proceedings.
- If the Respondent does not return the ‘Acknowledgement of Service’ – then proof that the Respondent have received the petition will have to be obtained before any further steps are taken. This may involve arranging for someone to deliver the application to the Respondent personally, or more rarely by obtaining a Court order that proof that the Respondent received the petition is not needed.
Stage 4. Applying for the Conditional Order
There is a mandatory ‘cooling-off’ period of 20 weeks from the date the divorce application is issues to the date when the Court can make a Conditional Order. After that period, either party can apply for a Conditional Order.
Stage 5. Court grants the Conditional Order
The District Judge looks through the application and if everything appears in order, they will give a certificate for the Conditional Order to be pronounced. The date will likely be a few weeks after the application is lodged but this can be dependent on the Court’s diary. The couple will not have to attend court.
Stage 6. Final Order
Six weeks after the Conditional Order, either party may apply for the Final Order. The granting of the Final Order concludes the divorce.
As your circumstances have changed, you may want to think about making a Will or updating an existing Will at this point.
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