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A handbook For Divorcing Couples


It might be difficult to determine that your marriage has come to an end. This article aims to provide legal and procedure information for couples who want a divorce. When marriages fall apart, there are frequently additional issues that need to be addressed, such as child custody or financial concerns. If you want to learn more about your legal rights, our other guides, Children and the law: when parents separate and A guide to financial arrangements after a marriage breakdown, may be of assistance.

The rules and procedures in this handbook are effective from April 6, 2022. Please contact Rights of Women’s advice line if you or your spouse applied for a divorce before April 6, 2022.

In this post, the term “spouse” refers to your husband or wife.

When can I submit my paperwork for a divorce?

Spouses who have been married for one year or more can seek a divorce.

Marriages Between Religions and Other Nations

The legal status of marriages performed in foreign or religious ceremonies is unclear in England and Wales. Please consult our legal guide A guide to marriage or contact Rights of Women’s legal advice line if you are unsure whether or not you are lawfully married.


Only applications to marry in England or Wales can be addressed by English and Welsh courts. If one or both of you is from England or Wales, there must be a connection between your relationship and the country in which you are applying to wed.

It’s possible that you and your spouse have ties in several countries, and you may choose to divorce from one country or another. The right nation to get divorced in has a significant influence on how marital funds are divided. If you believe your spouse will file for divorce in another country, you should seek legal counsel immediately since you might wish to proceed with divorce proceedings in England or Wales before they do.

There are a variety of reasons for divorce.

To file for divorce, you must show that your marriage has irrevocably broken down. The term irrevocably broken down refers to a marriage that has come to an end permanently and cannot be restored. If you want a divorce, you must declare on the application form that your relationship has deteriorated to the point where it is irretrievable

It is no longer necessary to provide this information to the court. The court will want to know about abuse and other types of safety concerns if they exist in other proceedings, such as child arrangements, but their existence will not affect the divorce process itself. Whether your relationship is ending because of a divorce, the death of a spouse, or other circumstances, the end of a marriage can be emotionally draining.

How much will it set you back?

An application fee is charged.

The court fee is £593 as of March 1, 2022. Court fees change from time to time, so check with your local court or go to: https://www.gov.uk/court-fees-what-they-are for the most up-to-date information.

If you are on a low income, the court may waive or lower your fee if you qualify for assistance with fees. For more information and to apply, go to www.gov.uk/apply-for-help-with-court-fees

If you and your spouse are applying for a divorce together, both of you will need to qualify for fee assistance, or one of you will be responsible for the full amount. In that instance, you must agree on how to split the cost and who will pay it to the court.

Other expenditures

If you wish to have a solicitor assist you, their costs will be determined on the basis of their rates. Many law firms now provide a flat fee for divorce proceedings. If you have been subjected to domestic violence, legal aid may be available.

For more insights on getting divorced, visit rightsofwomen.org.uk

Applying for your spouse to pick up the tab

In your divorce application, you cannot request that your spouse reimburse you for legal fees. If you want the court to order your spouse to pay the divorce costs, you must submit a separate application to the court. Your spouse’s lawyer will undoubtedly appeal the decision, and you may be required to pay all or a portion of your legal fees. The form you use to submit a costs application is D11.

A costs order is typically unusual in the context of a court action. The most frequent cause for a court to issue a cost order is when one party has engaged in unruly behavior throughout the procedure. This might be through attempting to avoid being served with papers, denying the application without any basis, or engaging in other acts of delay.

The application procedure

You may file for divorce online at www.gov.uk/apply-for-divorce.

If you do not want to submit an online application, you may use Form D8 to make a paper application. You can get a copy of the form from your local court or the Government’s website.

There are two ways to file for divorce in the United States. A single application and a joint application are the options.

Single application for divorce

One person makes a single application to the marriage. If you complete the application form yourself, your solicitor should do so as well. You will be the applicant whereas your spouse will be the respondent.

On the application, you will be asked whether you want to make a financial claim against your spouse. It is often preferable to check the boxes if you wish to apply for a financial order in the future. If you check “Yes,” this does not open a financial claim against your spouse. To begin the financial claim process, you must fill out a separate form. See our legal information on making a financial claim after a marriage breakup for more advice.

The forms are intended to be completed by non-solicitors, but if possible, you should get legal advice from a solicitor or the legal advice line.

A Joint application

If you and your spouse agree that divorce is the best option for you, you can fill out the application forms together to end your marriage. One of you will be applicant 1, and the other will be applicant 2. Both of you must submit an application form. Most of the forms will be completed by applicant 1. Aside from that, neither applicant 1 nor 2 makes a significant difference.

What if we submit a joint application and one of us stops working together?

A joint application may later be transformed into a single application if your spouse refuses to sign paperwork or perform other necessary actions to complete the divorce.

Once a joint application becomes a single application, it cannot revert to being a joint application.

Is it possible to have a single application converted into a joint one?

Not necessarily. If one spouse makes a single application, it will remain a single application.

Keeping your information private if you’re seeking divorce

On the application, you must provide your contact information. The respondent will receive a copy of the application. If you do not want the other party to have your contact details, you must state this on the form. You can do so by picking ‘yes’ to the option that asks, “Do you want your personal information to be kept private from your spouse or civil partner?” Your contact information will be deleted from the data supplied to the other party.

Certificate of marriage

You must submit a certified copy of your marriage certificate with your application. If you’re filling out an online form, you’ll be directed to a page where you may upload or mail in your marriage certificate. You can obtain a copy of your marriage license from the Registry Office in the district where you were married or from the General Register Office if you cannot If your marriage certificate is in a language other than English, you must have it translated and notarized by a notary public – consult an attorney about this.

What happens after you submit an application for a conditional order?

The court will assign a case number to the request and begin the divorce procedure. This is referred to as issuing.

It’s possible that your application will take some time to be processed. If you need to file for divorce right away, speak with an attorney about how this may be done.

Informing the respondent for sole application

The application requires the respondent’s usual email address and residential address. These contact information will be utilized by the court to notify the individual about the divorce petition. This is referred to as service in these circumstances.

The court will send an email to the respondent with a copy of the divorce application, notification of proceedings, and a form to acknowledge service after it has issued the application. The court will also send a postcard notifying the respondent about the email.

If you do not know the respondent’s email address, you may state on the application that you want the court to send the respondent only by mail.

If you don’t know the respondent’s home address but do have the email address, use a form D11 to apply for permission to send by email only.

If you don’t know the respondent’s normal postal address or email address and can’t get them, you may request permission to serve him/her in another manner or dispense with service. Form D11 is where you can fill out these forms. If at all feasible, seek legal counsel before filling this form out.

Circumstances when you may have to serve the respondent

In most situations, the court will serve the respondent. There may be times when you must serve the respondent. This implies that you must ensure that the applicant receives the notification of proceedings and acknowledgment of service form. You should serve the respondent if:

  • The person who responded was a resident of another country or region.
  • The court has attempted to contact the respondent, but it has been unable to do so.
  • You choose to work for the respondent by checking off the correct box on the application form.

If you are in charge of serving the respondent, you must do so within 28 days of the date the application was delivered. If there are valid reasons why you cannot serve the applicant within this time period, you can ask for an extension. You must explain to the court why you have been unable to serve the respondent, as well as document your efforts to do so.

Responding to a divorce application

The respondent must submit an acknowledgment of service to the court within fourteen days after receiving the divorce paperwork, which is when they are sent. This may be done online or by paper using form D10. If the respondent is located outside of England and Wales, the deadline for submitting timeframes will be longer.

The acknowledgment of service form is used by the respondent to acknowledge whether or not they accept the contents of the divorce documents if they plan to fight the divorce, and whether or not they agree with them. The respondent is unable to dispute the divorce on the grounds that they do not believe that their marriage has irretrievably broken down or that

D8B forms, also known as answers, are required for anyone who wishes to dispute a divorce. It is only possible to challenge a divorce on one of the following grounds:

  • The court is not authorized to rule on the lawsuit.
  • The marriage is not legal.
  • It has already been established that your marriage is invalid.

The cost of appealing a divorce is now £245.

The answer must be submitted within 21 days of the date that the acknowledgment of service was required to be filed.

Example On 3rd May 2022, the divorce was delivered to the respondent by email and a notice was also sent by post. The defendant has until 20th May 2022 to send an acknowledgment of service either online or on paper to the court. You have until 10th June 2022 to file an answer if you intend to dispute your divorce with a D8 form.

If your spouse objects to the divorce, you should consult an attorney.

Keeping your address private upon responding to a divorce

If your spouse has filed for divorce and you are the respondent, keep in mind that he or she will receive a copy of your acknowledgment of service (and response if you are disputing the divorce). If you don’t want your spouse to have access to your contact information, follow all of these steps:

  • Do not include your contact information on the acknowledgment of service or response.
  • On the form, mark “confidential” next to your e-mail address and contact information.
  • Use form C8 to send your contact information to the court.

Requesting a Conditional Order

The next step is for the applicant, or applicants, to apply for a conditional order after service has been completed. You must wait 20 weeks from the date of the application issuance before submitting an application for a condition order.

You may apply for a D84 form conditionally order as soon as 20 weeks have elapsed.

If you applied together at some time and are now applying as a single applicant for the conditional order, you must submit a copy of the D84 form to your spouse with your application.

What happens after you submit an application for a conditional order?

The situation will be opened for the judge to review your information provided to the court thus far, as well as whether you are eligible for a divorce. You don’t have to appear in court if the divorce is uncontested. The judge simply examines the papers.

If the judge is convinced you are entitled to a divorce, he or she will issue a Certificate of Entitability to Conditional Order. This will provide a court date and time for your conditional order to be issued. You are not required to appear in court on this day. The divorce process begins with the conditional order, which does not terminate the marriage.

Final order application

You have 60 days and one day after the expiration date of your conditional order to submit an application for a final order. You may do so using form D36.

If it’s been more than a year since the date of the conditional order, you must supply further information to the court on the application form.

If the applicant does not seek an order after the six weeks have elapsed, the respondent may apply three months later.

If you’re applying for the final order as a single applicant and you applied together for the initial application and conditional order, you must give your spouse at least 14 days’ notice that you’ll request the conditionality be made permanent. In order to obtain a divorce, you must submit evidence that you sent the notice to your spouse. You can then use form D36A to apply for a restricted decree.

At that point, your marriage is legally terminated. You and your spouse are then free to remarry if you choose. If feasible, look over any existing or new wills and seek legal counsel.

How long will it take to complete the process?

The timeframes for completing a divorce are relatively quick, taking under 6 months from start to finish. However, the procedure is most likely to take longer than that, depending on how long it takes the court to go through each step of the divorce and how long it takes each spouse to respond.

The time limits for divorce are usually set by the parties’ agreement. The only way to request a reduction in time limits is in unusual situations, such as when a marriage partner is near death and wants to get divorced before he or she dies.

It’s generally a good idea to put off applying for the last order until any financial litigation is completed since it might affect your rights to reside in your family home, pensions, or other matters concerning joint finances. If your spouse is uncooperative or there are difficulties resolving the money issues, the divorce may take much longer.

Is it legal to get a religious divorce?

A religious divorce may be used to dissolve a religious marriage. To terminate a legal marriage in England and Wales, you must go through the courts, as a spiritual divorce does not exist in law.

What happens if I’m divorced in a different nation?

A divorce that takes place outside of England and Wales is not always legally accepted. A divorce may be recognized in the nation in which it was obtained, but it will not necessarily be accepted in England and Wales. If you’re married and then get remarried before your first marriage is annulled, the second marriage will be void. You also risk being charged with bigamy, which is a crime. The requirements for recognizing foreign divorces are intricate, and the criteria vary depending on which nation your divorce took place. As a result, we strongly advise you to consult with a lawyer.

My homeowners’ rights

If a home is a person’s marital residence, they have the right to live in it. This implies that you have the right to reside there until your marriage comes to an end, even if your spouse owns the property in their individual name. This is referred to as home rights. If your house is in your spouse’s sole name, you may lose the right to live there as a result of the divorce, so it’s critical that you obtain legal counsel.

The rules are complicated, and they may have changed since this book was published. This publication is primarily intended to give basic information on the law in England and Wales. You should obtain up-to-date, neutral legal counsel. 

The authors of this handbook are not liable for any use made of the legal information supplied.

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