Checklist for the 20-week cooling off period in divorce

Originally published on 30th May 2022 at 12:46 PM
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No-fault divorce was introduced in England and Wales on the 6th of April 2022 . This represents the end of the ‘blame game’ , meaning you no longer need a ground for divorce or reason to blame each other in the legal paperwork.

There are several changes to the system which you can read about here.

Part of these changes includes the introduction of the mandatory 20-week 'reflection period' , also known as the 'cooling-off' period.

The key changes are:

  • You no longer need to give a ‘reason’ for the breakdown of your marriage on the divorce application. Instead, submitting a divorce application tells the court you believe your marriage has broken down irretrievably
  • You can apply for a divorce as an individual or you can now make a joint application
  • A 20-week ‘reflection’ period follows from the court issuing your divorce. There is a further 6 week waiting period after a conditional order has been granted, which means along with the court processing time, divorces will take a minimum of seven months to complete
  • The only reasons you can contest a divorce are: you’re not married; you are already divorced; or you don’t believe you should be divorced in England and Wales (you believe another jurisdiction is more appropriate)
  • The language in the legal paperwork has been updated (ie. divorce petition, is now divorce application, decree nisi is now conditional order and decree absolute is now final order)

What is the ‘reflection’ or ‘cooling-off’ period?

The new no-fault system has a mandatory built-in ‘reflection period' which has been designed to help couples adjust to the reality that their marriage or civil partnership is over and to make any child or financial arrangements.

The reflection period , also known as the ‘ cooling-off ’ period is 20-weeks and starts from the date the divorce application is officially started, or ‘ issued ’, by the court.

We’ve written a checklist of things you can do during the 20-weeks, divided into three main areas: the emotional journey, children and finances .

The emotional journey

Adjusting to the news that your marriage is over can be difficult for both people, even if you’re in a different place to your partner emotionally. If you’re in a raw emotional state, organising and negotiating can be very tricky. You may wish to use this time to start the healing process, to put you in the best position to make any children or financial arrangements.

Where are you on the healing curve?

Understanding where you are on the healing curve can help you navigate difficult emotions during the separation process. It might also place you and your partner in a stronger position to negotiate.

Are you experiencing divorce anxiety?

Divorce and separation can be overwhelming, and it’s natural for that to have an impact on your mental health. You can read about 'divorce anxiety' in our guide.

Try mindfulness meditation to help you with your divorce

Mindfulness can train you to focus on how you are presently feeling, which in turn can provide you with a greater insight into your mental health, what triggers negative feelings in you and in some cases where you might need to seek additional help through therapy or counselling.

You can find many more resources in our emotional journey of divorce category. We also share advice and tips on social media.


Once you’ve told your children and family, there are a few other things you will need to consider.

Have you created a 'Parenting Plan'?

If you have children and you’re separating, this is often the first thing a couple will do. Use the time in the 20-week reflection period to create or review your Parenting Plan. This will plot out basic decisions you need to make about your children, such as, where they will live and who they will live with.

You can upload these to the amicable co-parenting app, and use the app to input your shared-care arrangements and to communicate with your ex.

Do you need co-parenting coaching?

If you’re struggling to agree on your child arrangements, consider co-parenting coaching. You can read all about why you might need a co-parenting specialist here. You can even have your co-parenting agreements documented in a Parenting Contract if you want to ensure you both stick to your agreement.

Talk to your children’s school

It’s useful to update the school when you have separated from your partner, as this can help them to understand your children’s behaviour and offer extra help and support. We have some more tips and advice on this in our blog.

Do you have pets?

If you have furry friends, we have a ‘Co-petting Agreement’ to help you agree and document your ‘co-petting’ arrangements post-separation. If you’re not sure who should keep the dog, or cat - have a read of our guides or listen to our podcast episode on it.

You can find many more resources in our children and co-parenting category.


There is a lot you can get organised with during the 20-week reflection period in terms of your finances. Some of these will only be applicable to you if you plan on applying for a consent order.

Ask your pension provider for your CETV

Even if you’re not going to split your pension/s with each other, you will need to get a ‘cash equivalent transfer value’ from your pension provider, if you're applying for a financial order. These can take some time to come through, so it’s worth being proactive.

You can listen to our podcast episode on pensions for more tips and advice.

Make a list of your collective assets and debts

When you separate, you will need to decide on what you plan on doing with your finances. This includes any property, money, cars, savings, pensions and so on. In order to work out how to separate these, you need to know what you have. Start to create a list of all your individual and shared assets and debts.

Negotiate and agree on your financial settlement

Even if you don’t plan on making this agreement legally binding through a consent order, you will need to decide on who gets what. amicable can help you to agree on your financial settlement through our coaching negotiation sessions, which are included in certain services, or mediation. If you or your ex have cryptocurrency, you might want to speak to a specialist, as understanding the value of this type of asset can impact your settlement.

'Stress-test' your agreement

If you've agreed on your settlement, you should future proof this to ensure that you will both have enough in the future and that your children will be provided for. For example, have you considered your children’s university fees, 18th birthday parties, and cars? You can also use this time to agree on a post-divorce budget.

Our podcast episode on finanical planning has lots of practical tips.

Get your agreement written up into a draft consent order

When it comes to your finances after separating, most people don’t realise that divorce alone doesn’t end your financial relationship with your ex. If you want to cut your financial ties and make any arrangements legally binding, you’ll need to apply for a consent order (if you agree) or a financial order (if you don’t). Unlike with solicitors, amicable can work with you both to agree on your financial arrangements and you can even have these written up into a draft consent order, which then gets sent to the court to be reviewed by a judge.

You can find many more resources in our finances category.

In summary:

  • Check in with your emotional wellbeing and that of your partner too
  • Create a Parenting Plan and stick to it
  • Gather your financial information and use the time to negotiate a settlement
  • Ask for help if you get stuck

If you plan carefully over the 20-weeks, you should be in a great position to co-parent, as well as being on the way to having a settlement which works for you both.

If you have any questions, speak to one of our experts to see how we can help you with your separation.


What is the 20-week period for no-fault divorce?

The 20-week period during the no-fault divorce process is the period between applying for a divorce and sending off your conditional order (the halfway point). The idea is to allow you time to emotionally process the divorce. It also presents an opportunity to get everything in place for the next chapter of your life. This includes financial and child arrangements (if you have children).

What happens after the 20-week reflection?

After the 20 weeks, you can apply for the conditional order. You will be notified when this happens. After a judge has reviewed your conditional order, you will receive a Certificate of Entitlement which is to say the Courts approve and acknowledge your application to divorce. After that, there is a further waiting period of six weeks and one day which many people use to sort out their finances through applying for a financial consent order.

What’s the cooling off period?

The ‘cooling off’ period is the period between sending off your divorce application and applying for your conditional order (roughly halfway through the process). This was introduced under the new no-fault divorce laws to allow couples to emotionally process the reality of the situation and to prepare for the future apart.

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