Divorce FAQs

What are the grounds for divorce?

There is only one ground for divorce, that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. You have to be able to satisfy the court that you have the ground for a divorce and must prove one of five facts to do so:

  1. Your spouse has committed adultery and you find it intolerable to continue to live with him/her; or
  2. Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him/her; or
  3. Your spouse has deserted you for a period of more than two years; or
  4. You have been separated for a period of at least two years and your spouse agrees to the divorce; or
  5. You have been separated for a period of more than five years. No consent required from your spouse.

As can be seen, three of the five facts available require you and your spouse to have been separated for at least two years. It is possible for you to still be living in the same house to qualify for facts involving two or five years of separation although you will have to satisfy the court that you have been living separately and apart from each other and as separate entities within the same household.

Will I have to attend court?

The divorce process is usually a paper-based exercise and, unless one party does not agree there should be a divorce, or there is a dispute over who pays the costs of the divorce, then there should be no need for either party to attend court.

How long does a divorce take?

For an uncontested divorce it takes on average six to eight months from issuing proceedings to the pronouncement of decree absolute. However, this depends on how busy the court is.

If you have issued proceedings in relation to the matrimonial finances it is likely that the divorce will take longer.

Do I need my marriage certificate to get divorced?

Yes. You are required to submit your marriage certificate to the court with your application for a divorce (the ‘divorce petition’). The marriage certificate also contains information that is needed to draft the divorce petition.

The court will require the original copy of the certificate, or a formal certified copy. If you have lost your certificate or you do not have it in your possession, then you can apply for a further copy for a small fee at the General Registry Office or sometimes the venue where the marriage took place.

Be aware that the court will retain the certificate and this will be replaced by your decree absolute once the divorce has been finalised.

I was married abroad and my marriage certificate is not in English, does this matter?

You will need to obtain a translation of the certificate for the court. As stated, the marriage certificate will also contain important information that is needed to complete the divorce petition which will have to be prepared in English.

The court will only accept translations that have been carried out in accordance with the family court rules and therefore advice is required to make sure the requirements are satisfied.

Can I name the party in the divorce petition that my spouse was adulterous with?

This is possible. The other party is known as the co-respondent and technically they can be named on the divorce petition. However, there is no need or advantage in doing this. It is also likely to cause delay and additional expense as the co-respondent must be served with the divorce petition as well as your spouse.

What happens if my ex defends the divorce?

Very few divorces are defended. If your spouse wishes to defend the divorce you should discuss this with us so we can advise you accordingly.

The respondent must file a defence (known as an ‘answer’) after receipt of the divorce papers to indicate that they do not agree to the divorce going ahead. If the issue cannot be settled by agreement you will both have to attend court and the judge will decide whether there can be a divorce or not. This can be complex and specialist advice is required.

Can I defend the divorce petition my ex has put in to court? 

If you think the divorce petition has been based on something untrue the process exists to prevent a divorce by defending the petition. As above, for reasons of cost and complexity, it is not common to defend a petition and we work hard to try to agree an acceptable, proportionate alternative.

My ex won't confirm they've received the divorce papers. What do I do? 

The court will accept lots of different types of evidence that your ex has had the petition even if they have not returned the necessary form to say so. Failing that, we can arrange for them to be handed the documents personally by a bailiff. The court would then be satisfied by that bailiff’s evidence that your ex knows about the divorce and you would be allowed to proceed. There are other routes too depending on your circumstances so it is important not to panic.

I am in a civil partnership and want to bring this to an end – is there a different process to divorce?

The divorce process is governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and this is the case for all marriages, whether between people of the opposite sex or the same sex. The same process is reflected within the Civil Partnership Act 2004 for couples who took that route. Whilst the proceedings under the Civil Partnership Act are called dissolution proceedings rather than divorce proceedings, and there are some other differences in terminology, the process is largely the same.

The principle difference is that, whilst in divorce proceedings there are five facts upon which you can chose to support your application, when dissolving a civil partnership there are only four, because it is not possible to rely on the other party’s adultery, unlike in divorce.

What are the costs of divorce?

There are five stages of a divorce and this does not include resolving children or financial issues. The cost will cover those five areas and the total will depend on whether there are complications, such as the petition being defended or there being difficulty proving your spouse has been served. The court fee for processing the case is currently £550. It is often possible to require your ex to pay some or all of these costs.

What difference does it make to have a lawyer who is a Resolution member acting for me in my divorce? 

Resolution is an organisation that most family lawyers belong to. All divorce lawyers at TV Edwards are members. We are committed to constructive dealings to minimise the emotional and financial cost of a divorce and related issues. This does not mean we do not protect your interests robustly, but the idea is that letters and documents will be constructively and considerately worded and take into account the long term effects of what is done and said. This is especially important where there are children so that a divorcing couple will have to have some form of relationship even once the marriage is formally over. Practical examples of Resolution-appropriate behaviour includes using very mild examples of unreasonable behaviour in divorce petitions (even if more serious behaviour has in fact taken place) and not naming the other person in court documents where there has been adultery. Our experience is that keeping tension and bad feeling to a minimum is best for our clients.

Does divorce decide where our children live? 

No. The court does not have to decide where your children live or who they spend time with in order for your divorce to be finalised. The vast majority of separating parents decide between themselves how their children should divide their time without recourse to anyone else. In those circumstances no order is made governing the children's time. If parents cannot agree then one of them can apply to the court for a judge to make a decision, although we encourage parents to try mediation or negotiation supported by solicitors before taking such a formal step. In any case, the divorce procedure is entirely separate. 

How are financial claims dealt with?

Ending a marriage or civil partnership through the divorce/dissolution process does not automatically deal with the financial claims that both parties have as a result of the marriage. Financial claims can be made by either party against matrimonial assets whether held in joint names or in one party’s sole name and the court can make a range of orders to effect division of those assets.

Financial claims can only be finalised by way of a court order, either one made by the court of its’ own volition or by the sanctioning of an agreement reached between the parties. Up to, and until, an order is made, it is possible for either party to make a claim against the assets of the other party, even after the divorce has been finalised.

There are many options available to parties to enable them to conclude these financial claims, whether by consent on a voluntary basis or within court proceedings.

Can we convert our civil partnership into a marriage?

Couples who registered a civil partnership in England and Wales have been able convert this to marriage since 10 December 2014. Couples can hold a ceremony or have a simple conversion at a registry office and obtain a marriage certificate which is backdated to the date of the civil partnership. No involvement from lawyers is required. We understand why many couples wish to convert, although the legal protections marriage provides are the same as civil partnerships and therefore the benefit in converting is personal rather than legal.