Getting a divorce

getting a divorce

Confirm to see if you’re eligible for getting a divorce.

If all of the following are true, you can get divorced in England or Wales:

  • You have been married for a year and a half.
  • Your relationship has irreversibly deteriorated
  • In the United Kingdom, your marriage is legally recognized (including same-sex marriage)
  • You live permanently in the United Kingdom, or your husband or wife lives permanently in the United Kingdom.

If you want to dissolve a civil relationship, the procedure is different.

You can acquire a legal separation if you don’t want getting a divorce and live apart without ending your marriage. You may be able to get the marriage annulled. During your first year of marriage, you can file for divorce or annulment.

There is a guide available in Welsh (Cymraeg). Filing a divorce is different in Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

Dissolution of marriage grounds

You must show them that your marriage has broken down and cannot be saved when filing for divorce. You must have provided one or more of the five reasons (sometimes known as ‘facts’).


Your spouse had sexual relations with a man or woman of the opposite sex (committed adultery).

If you have lived as a couple for more than six months after discovering adultery, you could not use it as a cause.

Unreasonable conduct

Your husband or wife has acted in a way that makes it impossible for you to live with them.

It could get involve the following:

  • there is physical violence
  • verbal abuse (insults and threats)
  • intoxication or drug use
  • refusing to contribute to shared living costs

Desertion of Getting a Divorce

Before filing for divorce, your husband or wife must have abandoned you for at least two years. If you lived together for a total of 6 months during this time, you could still claim desertion, but it will not count toward the two-year timeframe.

You’ve been separated from your partner for at least two years.

If you have been separated for at least two years before filing for divorce and you both agree, you can file for divorce.

Your husband or wife must sign a written agreement.

As long as you were not living together as a pair, you may be able to prove that you’ve been separated while living in the same house as your wife or husband (for example, you sleep and eat apart).

You’ve been estranged from your partner for at least five years.

Even if your husband or wife disagrees, you can file for divorce if you’ve been apart for at least five years.

Before submitting your application,

Both of you can work out together before submitting your application:

1. Make plans to care for any children who may be present.

2. child support payments if there are any children

You can also split your assets and money. If you wish to make this legally binding, you must meet a deadline.

If you agree on the issues of children, money, and property, as well as the reasons for terminating your marriage, you can typically avoid going to court.

Obtain assistance in reaching an agreement on issues.

You can use the services of a mediator. Look to confirm if you qualify for legal assistance to assist with the cost of mediation.

You can also get guidance on forming agreements from the following people:

1. organizations in your neighbourhood

2. Consultation with citizens

If you’re married to multiple people

If you’re married to more than one individual, contact your local divorce centre (polygamy).

How to Get Started

To file for divorce, you’ll need the following documents:

1. the full name and the complete address of your husband or wife

2. a verified copy of your marriage certificate (plus a certified translation if it’s not in English)

3. proof of name change if you’ve changed your name since getting married, such as a marriage certificate or a deed poll

If you don’t know your husband or wife’s present address, you should look it up. It will be required by the court to submit a copy of the divorce petition.


To petition for getting a divorce, you must pay a cost of £593. How you pay is determined by how you apply. After that, you’ll receive a notification that your application has been approved, and it will not return your fee.

If you have received any benefits or have a low income, you may be eligible for free assistance.

Online applications are accepted.

You can file for divorce through the internet. To apply online, you’ll need a debit or credit card.

Apply by post or in Welsh 

To begin getting a divorce, fill out a divorce application form D8 (‘divorce petition’).

A Citizens Advice Bureau can assist you in filling out the form.

They should send at least three copies of the paperwork to your local divorce centre. They will send one copy to your husband or wife. If you mentioned someone your husband or wife had an affair with, you must give four copies. Hide a copy of the paperwork for yourself.

How to Make a Payment 

You can pay in one of two ways:

1. Debit or credit card – the divorce centre will contact you to make a payment.

2. a check made out to “HM Courts and Tribunals Service.”

What happens once you submit your application?

They will thoroughly examine your application. If it’s correct, you’ll receive the following:

1. an acknowledgement that your application has been approved (sent out)

2. a divorce centre-stamped copy of your application

3. a case reference number

If you applied online, it could take up to 10 days, and if you applied by mail, it could take longer, up to a month.

The divorce application and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form will be sent to your spouse or wife by the court. Your spouse will be required to react to your divorce petition.

If you mention someone your husband or wife had an affair with, they will receive a copy of the application and be invited to respond.

Your partner or spouse responds.

Your spouse or wife is asked on the acknowledgement of service form if they:

1. consent to the divorce

2. aim to make every effort to avoid the divorce (defend it)

3. refuse to pay the charges (if you’ve requested them).

Within eight days, your husband or wife must answer.

If they’re on board with the divorce,

You can proceed with your divorce by requesting a decree nisi.

If they decide to fight the divorce

Your husband or wife will be required to fill out a ‘response to divorce’ form explaining why they oppose the divorce. They have 28 days from the time they receive the divorce application to do this task.

If they do not file a ‘response to divorce’ form, you might petition for a decree nisi to keep the divorce going.

You may have to go to court to discuss the case if they do not promptly respond to the divorce petition.

Apply for a nisi decree.

If your spouse refuses to defend about getting a divorce case, you might get a decree nisi.

A decree nisi is a document that presents that the court sees no reason why you should not divorce.

You can still file for a decree nisi if your spouse or wife refuses to agree on getting a divorce. You must, however, attend a court hearing to argue your case, at which a judge will decide whether or not to give you a decree nisi.

If you’ve already been assigned a hearing date, the court will call you and inform you of the details.

How to Apply 

To get a decree nisi, read the instructions and then complete the decree nisi application.

You must also sign a declaration attesting to the accuracy of the information you provided in your divorce petition.

There are five different statement types to choose from; use the one that best fits the reason for your divorce:

1. accusation of adultery

2. comment on outrageous behaviour

3. statement of desertion

4. A statement of separation for two years

5. A statement of 5 years separation

Please attached a copy of your husband’s or wife’s divorce petition response.

Obtaining a nisi decree

If the judge agrees, the court will issue a certificate to you and your spouse. It could take a few weeks.

The document will state the time and date on which you will get a decree nisi.

Even if the decree nisi is obtained, you will still be married. Before you may petition for a ‘decree absolute’ to end the marriage, you’ll have to wait 43 days (6 weeks and one day).

Your application has been turned down.

You may receive a form called a “notice of refusal of judge’s certificate,” which explains why you cannot divorce.

The form will direct you to the next step. The judge may request additional written information, or you may be required to attend a court session.

If a court hearing is scheduled, you can seek legal guidance.

Make an application for an absolute decree.

The decree absolute is a document that declares your marriage to be null and void.

Before you can petition for a decree absolute, you must wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and one day) after the day of the order nisi.

You must apply within 12 months after receiving the decree nisi, or you will be required to explain your delay to the court.

How to Get Started

Fill out the notice of application for decree nisi to be made a final form to apply for a decree absolute.

Before you seek a decree absolute, you must first petition the court for a legally binding agreement for distributing money and property.

Obtaining an absolute decree

The court will look into it:

1. Deadlines have been met.

2. There are no other compelling reasons to deny the divorce.

The court will then issue you both an absolute decree.

Within a few days, you’ll receive your absolute decree:

1. If you applied online, you have 24 hours (Monday through Friday) to respond.

2. If you apply by mail, you’ll have to wait ten days.


They will send the decree absolute to your solicitor if you have one. You’ll need to request a copy from them. You are divorced, no longer married, and free to marry again if you so desire once you receive the decree absolute.

If you misplace your decree absolute, you can request a copy from the court.

If you do not apply for an absolute decree

If you do not apply for the decree absolute, your husband or wife can. They’ll have to wait an additional three months on top of the usual 43 days.

If your husband or wife is mentally challenged,

If your husband or wife ‘lacks mental capacity and refuses to agree to a divorce or participate in the divorce process, you can file for divorce.

During the divorce, your spouse or wife will require someone to make decisions for them. A ‘litigation friend’ is someone who acts on their behalf. It could be a member of their family, a close friend, or someone else.

Your partner does not have a litigation buddy.

You can ask the court to appoint a litigation friend if no one is suitable or willing to be their litigation buddy. When no one else is available, the Official Solicitor may agree to act as your husband or wife’s litigation friend (‘litigation friend of last resort’)

How to Get Started

  1. Ensure no one else is available or willing to serve as your husband or wife’s litigation buddy.
  1. Make sure there’s enough money on hand to cover any charges the Official Solicitor may incur. Your husband or wife may be qualified for legal assistance.
  2. Give the court the name and address of your husband’s or wife’s doctor or other medical professional so that they can request a certificate of capacity.

You will be eligible to petition for divorce if the Official Solicitor agrees to act as a litigation friend for your spouse or wife.

Contact the personnel of the Official Solicitor’s Office.

If you have a question concerning about getting a divorce to someone who lacks the mental ability, send an email or phone the private family law office. They are unable to respond to broad concerns about divorce.

Official Solicitor – Private law family team


Telephone: 020 3681 2754

Learn about the costs of phone calls