How do I get a divorce?

You can get a divorce if your marriage or civil partnership of at least one year has broken down beyond repair.

You no longer need to give a reason or show your partner is at fault.

If you've been married or civilly partnered for under one year, you can get a legal separation.

No-fault divorce

You no longer need to give reasons (grounds for divorce) or show your partner is at fault to get a divorce. This is called a no-fault divorce.

This means, for example, that you won't have to present evidence of domestic abuse.

Instead, you only have to make a formal statement that the marriage has broken down and can’t be fixed.

You can either apply for a divorce jointly with your partner or on your own. If you're experiencing domestic abuse, you should apply on your own, which is called a sole application.

How long does it take?

It usually takes at least 6 months to finalise a divorce, or longer if you have to settle issues about money, property or children in court.

It's usually best to sort out financial matters before your divorce is finalised. See Dividing your money and property when you separate for more information.

How much does it cost?

The application fee for a divorce is £593.

You may be able to get help paying the fee if you’re on benefits or a low income, and have less than £3,000 in savings if you're under 61, or up to £16,000 if you're 61 or over.

You can apply for help online, giving details about your finances. The court will decide whether to reduce your fee.

Other costs

There are other costs that you should think about too, including:

  • solicitor’s and legal fees
  • going to court if you can’t agree on things
  • child maintenance
  • spousal maintenance
  • paying housing and living costs alone
  • the division of your assets and property

If you’re using a solicitor, you should consider your legal costs. Generally, the more complicated your case, the more it will cost you. You could try asking your solicitor to work to a fixed fee so that you’ll know how much it’ll be from the outset.

You may be able to get legal aid.

Making a sole application

It's best to apply for a divorce on your own rather than jointly with your partner if:

  • your partner doesn't want to divorce
  • you think your partner might not co-operate with divorce proceedings
  • your partner is abusive

After you apply, the court will notify your partner. Your partner must respond within 14 days, saying whether they agree with or dispute the application.

If they agree, you must wait 20 weeks before applying for a conditional order. You'll be told how to do this. You and your partner will then get a certificate from the court. You'll have to wait a further 6 weeks and 1 day to finalise the divorce.

If your partner disputes the divorce, they must have a proper legal reason. They can't stop the divorce just because they don't like it, but you may have to go to court. If they don't have a valid reason or don't respond, you can apply for a conditional order and finalise the divorce as above.

Legal separation

A legal separation allows you to separate from your partner without divorcing, if you've been married or civilly partnered for under one year, or if you have a religious reason not to divorce.

The fee for legal separation is £365.

You can get more information and apply for a legal separation online.

Apply for a divorce

If you live in England or Wales, you can apply for a divorce on the GOV.UK website.

If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you'll find links about what to do on the same webpage.

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