How long does it take to get a divorce?
The most straightforward of divorces can be finalised in around 6-9 months, although how long a divorce takes will depend on several factors. In most cases it can take longer because of the time needed to reach a financial settlement and agree other details, such as arrangements for children.
The first step to getting a divorce is to send a divorce Petition to the court, along with the marriage certificate and court fee of £550. The spouse who is applying and possessing the divorce (known as the “Petitioner”), will draft the Petition.
The Petition is sent to the other spouse (known as the “Respondent”), who will need to bear in mind the following time limits:
- Within 7 days, he/she should return to the court a completed “Acknowledgement of Service”, which accompanies the Petition.
- Within 21 days, whether or not the Acknowledgement of Service has been filed, the spouse must, if he/she intends to defend the Petition, file a defence (known as an “answer”).
NOTE: Divorces which are ‘defended’ will take longer.
Within a few days of receiving the Acknowledgement of Service from the Respondent, the Court will send the Petitioner’s solicitor a copy of the Acknowledgement of Service.
If the Respondent is not defending the Petition, the Petitioner can apply for the next stage – Decree Nisi. The Petitioner’s solicitor prepares a Statement in Support of the Petition for the Petitioner to sign confirming that the contents of the Petition are true. The Statement will then be sent to the court together with an application for Decree Nisi to be made.
If an Acknowledgement of Service is not returned to the Court, the Petitioner must obtain proof that the Respondent has received the Petition. This may involve arranging for someone to deliver the Petition to the respondent personally or, exceptionally, obtaining a Court order stating that the Respondent has received the Petition and it is not necessary to provide further proof.
On receipt by the Court of the application for a date for pronouncement of the Decree Nisi, the District Judge looks through the papers and, if they seem in order, gives a certificate for the Decree Nisi to be pronounced. Depending on the court’s diary, the date is likely to be a few weeks after the certificate is granted.
Following the pronouncement of Decree Nisi:
- 6 weeks and 1 day after the date of Decree Nisi – The Petitioner may apply for the final decree (“Decree Absolute”) by sending the appropriate form to the Court. This step is not automatic.
- 3 months after the Petitioner could first have applied for Decree Absolute – The Respondent may make an application to the Court for Decree Absolute if the Petitioner has not already done so. This will involve a short hearing before the District Judge if agreement is not reached.
It is not until you get Decree Absolute that you are divorced. However, you should always take advice before applying for Decree Absolute as it may affect financial provisions.