How to get divorced in the UK (England & Wales) - Step by step filing for divorce guide
Step-by-step guide on how to apply for a divorce in the UK:
Starting the divorce or dissolution process can feel daunting. Understanding the divorce process can reduce stress and help you find the best way to submit for divorce.
In this guide, we will take you through the entire process of submitting for a divorce step-by-step but first, let’s look at what your options are for managing the divorce process.
The legal steps you will need to take are almost always the same (if it’s a straightforward divorce/ dissolution) but the way in which you manage the process varies.
It's possible to submit the divorce paperwork yourself using the government website if your divorce is simple, and you're comfortable with managing the process yourself. The cost of submitting your divorce/dissolution yourself is up to £593 (the court fee). You can check if you're entitled to a discount on this fee here. If you submit your divorce yourself, you will still need legal support to negotiate and legalise your financial separation. amicable offers a range of services to help you with your finances from a write-up service for couples who have agreed their finances, to a fully supported negotiation support where a more comprehensive service is required. If you’ve submitted online, then give us a call or view our service here.
amicable is unique as we're able to help with everything, including financial and childcare arrangements as well as the legal process. We make everything as simple as possible. Using amicable allows you to separate without lawyers and amicable is around three times cheaper than a solicitor and half the cost of mediation services. Our services range from £300 for a simple divorce to £6690 per couple for negotiation of finances, childcare arrangements as well as the divorce and consent order documents. Of course, there are other online services out there, but none provide the beautiful combination of really smart tech and that all-important human touch. View our fixed-price services here.
A common option, a solicitor or lawyer can manage the legal process of divorce/ separation as well as any financial and childcare issues too. This option is most relevant where there are danger signs, and you need your own legal protection. For example, domestic violence, one person hiding /moving assets. The cost ranges from £500 for a simple divorce but can reach around £15,000 if the process is long (usually because of disagreements between you). Remember you will be paying two lawyers at an average of £8000 per person for divorce and finances.
A mediator is an independent, trained professional that helps you and your partner to work out agreements for children or finances. This option works if you and your ex can commuicate with each other. You need to be aware that you'll need to go elsewhere to get the legal side of separating sorted. Mediators normally charge from £100 an hour per person and most couples have between three and four sessions.
Going to court
Going to court should be the last resort, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Going to court is usually the most expensive, acrimonious and drawn out option. It's estimated that the legal cost of going to court is around £40k per person in London and £13k per person outside of London. It can take approximately two years or more at times to finalise things through the court.
What do you need to start divorce proceedings?
- To be married / in a civil partnership for at least one year.
- At least one of you and your ex must live in England or Wales.
- An original/ certified copy of your marriage certificate, in English. Click here for advice on getting a new copy or translated copy of your marriage certificate. (If you've lost it, a new one can be ordered from the registrar where you married or from the government website. If your marriage certificate is not written in English, you will also need a certified translation, as well as the original copy of your marriage certificate.
- £593 to pay the government, see this as a submitting/ admin fee. You may also be entitled to a discount on the court fees, but this will depend on several factors.
Once you have these things to hand, the steps below will guide you through how to submit for a divorce in England and Wales:
Divorce process guide: step-by-step how to submit for divorce in England and Wales
Step one: Submit the application for divorce
Alternatively, if you want support from a divorce expert, read through the various options available to you in our straightforward guide to divorce options or speak to one of our experts today to discuss your personal situation and how we can help you.
You will have to decide whether you would like to make a sole application or a joint application. Be very careful to fill out each box as required – spell everything correctly and use the help print on the side of the divorce application or on the government website for help with this.
Paper divorce applications
For a paper applications , make sure to pay the divorce court fee of £593 by enclosing a cheque or ticking the ‘pay by debit card box’. You may be eligible for a discount.
You can download a copy of the paper application here to complete and post to the court. Instructions on where to post your application are given at the end of the form, depending on whether you want to pay the court fee by cheque or by credit/debit card.
Online divorce applications
If you are using the online government portal, you can pay at the end of the online form, however, your application won’t be submitted until you’ve paid the court fees. You can attach a scan or image of your marriage certificate, however, the court may ask you to post it in as further proof. For joint applications, applicant one completes the application, and applicant two checks this before applicant one submits it to court.
Speak to a Divorce Specialist
Book a free 15-minute call with an amicable expert. Understand the process, how long it may take, how much it can cost and what your options are.
You can join the call alone or together.
Once the court has processed your divorce/ dissolution paperwork, you will receive the notice of issue – either by email (for the online system) or in the post for the paper route. The date your divorce is ‘issued’ by the court, is the date your 20 week reflection period starts.
When you have confirmation that your divorce or dissolution has been issued, if you made a sole application, your ex will be sent a copy of the divorce application.
Step two: The acknowledgement of service (for the sole application)
The acknowledgement of service form (AOS) needs to be completed by the other person. If you submitted a paper divorce/ dissolution application, they will have received all the paperwork in the post and will need to complete the AOS form and send it back to the court.
If you’ve chosen the online route, your ex will be sent a letter with log-in details for them to acknowledge receipt of the divorce/ dissolution application online.
If they don’t or you don’t hear anything from the court you should ring the court helpline on 0300 303 0642. You may need to serve papers to ensure your ex receives them.
Step three: Apply for your Conditional Order
There is a mandatory reflection period built into the process, and you must wait 20-weeks after your divorce application has been issued by the court before you can proceed to the next stage.
If you applied together, or once your ex has returned the AOS, or the court has agreed your ex has received the divorce papers you will be able to apply for your Conditional Order.
For the traditional paper route, you can download the relevant forms from the government website.
If you are using the government's online system – you will be asked to fill out the Conditional Order application online. This consists of a few questions. If you have made a joint application for divorce, you will both need to check this application before it is submitted.
This is when a judge will review your application confirm you are entitled to a divorce or that you can dissolve your civil partnership. If the judge agrees the relationship has broken down and is past the point of repair, you will both receive a Conditional Order pronouncement date’ and then a Conditional Order certificate confirming you are entitled to a divorce/ dissolution.
It’s important to ensure your application does not have errors as this will cause delays and further costs. If you would like help with your divorce paperwork, amicable offer fixed-fee services that help you with all or some of it.
Step four: Apply for a consent order (optional)
If you would like to sort out your finances, you should submit a consent order. A consent order formalises how you both plan to split your finances (assets, debts, income etc). It’s a good idea to have one if you have assets to split and want to make sure any agreement you come to is legally binding. amicable offer a consent order drafting service, to help you with this stage of the divorce/ dissolution process.
Step five: Apply for your Final Order
Six weeks and one day after the Conditional Order pronouncement date, applicant one can apply for the Final Order which is the last stage of the submitting for divorce process. If you have made a joint application for divorce, then applicant two must check this before it is submitted to court.
Once you receive your Final Order certificate – you are officially divorced. Keep the paperwork safe and start your new chapter!
amicable's top tips when submitting for divorce:
Where possible, make sure your partner agrees before you start divorce proceedings. If they don't agree and aren't willing to cooperate, it can slow down proceedings.
Seek expert advice if you are unsure how to fill out the forms. Do your research before sending off the paperwork and ask for help if you think you might fill it in incorrectly.
Use the reflection period to sort out your financial and child arrangements. amicable have lots of services to help you with this.
Did you know you/your ex can still make a financial claim in the future even though you’re divorced? Decide if you want to make your financial split legally binding through a consent order. A consent order will put an end to any future claims.
Online divorces tend to go through more quickly than paper divorces, however if there are any complications in the divorce, you may only be able to go down the paper route.
How long does it take to divorce/ end your civil partnership?
It depends. For a more detailed answer, we've created a guide for how long a divorce takes with tips on how to speed the process up.
On average, it takes a minimum of six months for all of the divorce paperwork to be completed and your divorce/ dissolution made legally binding through the courts. You can request a personalised estimate by answering a few simple questions here.
Ending your financial relationship and the possibility of future claims
It’s very important that you’re aware that ending your marriage or civil partnership through the courts does not end your financial relationship. As mentioned above, if you want or need to legalise your arrangements and end your financial claims you’ll need to get a consent order.
A consent order (sometimes called a financial order) is a completely different legal process that can be completed either as you divorce (generally the best option) or after.
What is the first thing to do when getting a divorce?
The first thing you must do to submit for divorce is decide whether you will apply together or alone, and then submit the divorce application. You have to pay the court fee and have a copy of your original marriage certificate.
How do you get a divorce without a solicitor UK?
You can get a divorce using the government website, or through an online service like amicable. amicable handle all the divorce paperwork so you can focus on what really matters to you. Read more about getting divorced without using divorce lawyers here.
How much does a divorce cost in the UK in 2021?
The cost of divorce varies, depending on the method used. If you are having a DIY divorce, the most it will cost is the initial £593 court fee (unless you are exempt). We have written a helpful guide on the cost of divorce/ dissolution and how to keep the costs down.
Is it better to submit for divorce or be served?
It doesn’t usually matter, however, with the introduction of No-fault divorce you can now apply for divorce together.
Start your amicable divorce journey
Speak to an amicable Divorce Specialist to understand your options and next steps for untying the knot, amicably.