This page provides information on divorce including the grounds and reasons for divorce, how to make an application and information on the overall process.

What is divorce?

Divorce is legally ending your marriage. This means that you will no longer be legally joined to your partner.

There are alternatives to divorce and these include:

  • annulment
  • judicial separation

For more information please see our page on Alternatives to ending a marriage or civil partnership.

 What is needed to begin divorce?

To begin divorce proceedings you must have been married for one year prior to the application being filed. If you have not been married for one year, judicial separation may be more appropriate – see our page on Alternatives to ending a marriage or civil partnership.

There is only one ground which you can rely on to get a divorce –  that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To prove this ground you have to rely on one or more of the below five facts:

  1. Unreasonable Behaviour – actions that make it impossible to live with the other party e.g. domestic abuse, drug or alcohol addiction or irresponsibility with money.
  2. Adultery – the other party has had sex with another person. Note if you remain living with the party for six months after the adultery occurred this cannot be used as a fact.
  3. Two Years’ Separation – the other party has to agree to this and you and the other party must been living separately for two years.
  4. Desertion – the other party has left the matrimonial home without a good reason or your consent and you have not been living with each other for 2 years out of the last 2.5 years.
  5. Five Years’ Separation – you have been living apart for five years prior to the application being made. Please note that the other party does not need to consent to this.

How do I apply for divorce?

From May 2018, it is now possible to apply for a divorce online

To apply for a divorce, you need to complete the divorce petition form D8 The cost of the application is £550. If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for a fee exemption and can complete the EX160 form when making the application. You may also be able to apply for legal aid if there has been domestic abuse in your relationship – please see our information page on Legal aid for family matters.

You will need to file a copy of your marriage certificate along with the application form.

Once you have completed the form, you will need to make at least three copies, and retain one for your records. You should send the following to court:

  • two copies of the application form;
  • if you are using the fact of ‘Adultery’, a third copy of the application form (which the court will provide to the person who is alleged to have committed the adultery);
  • your marriage certificate;
  • the fee (£593); and
  • the fee exemption form, if applicable.

Once the court has received the application form, the Respondent (your spouse) has eight days to respond, stating whether they wish to dispute the divorce.

What happens if my partner agrees to end the marriage?

The Respondent (your spouse) can agree to the divorce. They will need to complete and return an ‘Acknowledgment of Service’ (form D10), which they will receive from the court. Once the court has sent you a copy of your spouse’s Acknowledgment, you can apply for ‘Decree Nisi’, using form D84.

What happens if my partner does not agree to end the marriage?

If the Respondent (your spouse) disagrees and wishes to defend the divorce application, the Respondent needs to state this in the Acknowledgement of Service (D10 form) within the eight days given. The Respondent then has 21 days to respond with why they are defending the divorce using the form D8B. The cost of this is £245. If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for a fee exemption and can complete the EX160 form when making the application. The Respondent can also file their own divorce petition. A court hearing will then be listed and you must attend this.

What is a Decree Nisi?

A Decree Nisi is an interim order of the court accepting the petition for divorce. If after sending the divorce petition, the Respondent (your spouse) does not defend the divorce, you can apply for a Decree Nisi using form D84. You will also need to complete a statement confirming your grounds for divorce:

  • ‘Adultery’ statement – form D80A
  • ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ statement – form D80B
  • ‘Desertion’ statement – form D80C
  • ‘2 Year Separation’ statement – form D80D
  • ‘5 year Separation’ statement – form D80E

You also need to send the Respondent’s response to the petition.

Once the court has received the Decree Nisi application, the Judge will then decide whether to grant the interim order. If the Judge agrees, you will receive your Decree Nisi. If the Court does not agree, you will receive a ‘Notice of Refusal of Judge’s Certificate;. This will explain why the Judge does not agree and will either invite you to provide more information in writing or to attend a court hearing.

What is a Decree Absolute?

A Decree Absolute is a final order which ends the marriage.

Once you have received your decree nisi you have to wait 6 weeks and one day before you can apply for a Decree Absolute. You will not be legally divorced until you have received a Decree Absolute. To apply for your Decree Absolute, you need to complete form D36 which costs £45.

If you are the Respondent in a divorce, you will need to wait 3 months and one day to apply for your Decree Absolute (final order). The fee for this application is currently £155. If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for a fee exemption and can complete the form EX160 when making the application. A court hearing will then be held.

Once the Decree Absolute has been issued, you are legally divorced.

What happens with arrangements for the children?

As part of the initial application for divorce you will need to fill out part of the form with all details of children of the family. It is hoped that you and your partner will come to an arrangement between you about any children.

Since 22 April 2014, the court does not need to consider arrangements for children of the family on an application for divorce. Any disputes over arrangements for children must first normally be addressed through mediation (for more information see our page on Family mediation). If this is unsuccessful, you could apply for a Child Arrangements Order under section 8 Children Act 1989. For more information, see our information pages on Contact and Residence.

Other information

Once you have divorced, you should notify all relevant agencies of your change in circumstances.

In relation to the financial side of the divorce, we would recommend you seek independent legal advice.

For details of solicitors to help with divorce, you can visit the following organisations: