You can get divorced in England or Wales if you are married for over a year and you believe that your relationship has complete broken down provided your marriage is legally recognized and your permanent residence is in the UK.

There is also an option for legal separation which you can get without ending your marriage. You can apply this in the first year of your marriage.

Grounds for divorce

You will need reasons to prove that your relationship doesn’t stand a chance. These reasons may include:


Your husband or wife had sexual relationship with someone else and they have done sexual intercourse but you cannot use this as a reason if you have found out about it after 6 months.

Unreasonable behaviour

Your husband or wife has behaved which is not reasonably expected when you are living together like:

  • physical violence
  • verbal abuse, such as insults or threats
  • drunkenness or drug-taking
  • refusing to pay towards shared living expenses


You can apply for divorce if your husband or wife has deserted or left for at least 2 years.

You can still claim desertion if you have lived together for up to a total of 6 months in this period, but that will not count towards the 2 years.

Separation 2 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least 2 years before applying for divorce and you both agree to it.

Your husband or wife must agree in writing.

It may be possible for you to show that you’ve been separated while living in the same home as your wife or husband as long as you’re not living together as a couple (for example you sleep and eat apart).

Separation 5 years

You can apply for a divorce if you’ve been separated for at least 5 years before applying, even if your husband or wife disagrees.

What happens after you apply

Your application will be checked. If it’s correct, you’ll be sent:

  • a notice that your application has been issued
  • a copy of your application stamped by the divorce centre
  • a case number allotted to your petition.

The court will send your husband or wife the divorce application and an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form. Your husband or wife will need to respond to your divorce application.

If you named someone your husband or wife committed adultery with, they’ll also be sent a copy of the application and be asked to respond.


The acknowledgement of service form asks your husband or wife if they:

  • agree with the divorce
  • intend to defend divorce

Non-Contested Divorce:

If the divorce is not contested then you can continue with the divorce and apply for decree nisi which is a legal document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce.

Contested Divorce:

Your husband or wife will have to complete an ‘answer to divorce’ form to say why they disagree with the divorce. They must do this within 28 days of getting the divorce application.

If they do not submit an ‘answer to divorce’ form, you can continue the divorce by applying for a decree nisi.

If either of the partner intend to defend the divorce then it may proceed to court stage where the case will be discussed in detail.

You can apply for decree absolute which is the legal document that ends the marriage. It has to be applied within 12 months of decree nisi otherwise court need explanation of the delay.

If either of the partner lacks mental capacity then a litigation friend is assigned the job and litigation friend can be close friend or family member who would represent the party.

Procedure of Divorce

If your marriage has irretrievably broken down and you wish to divorce your spouse, you’ll need to follow the divorce procedure to obtain a decree absolute.

What you need to know about the divorce process

a. File a divorce petition

b. Acknowledgement of service

c. Decree nisi

d. Decree absolute


  1. What is the first step in the divorce process
  • File a divorce petition:

First you must complete a divorce petition. This is a legal document sometimes called aForm D8, which will set out details of yourmarriage including when and where you weremarried and of the particular factthat you are relying on to prove your marriagehas broken down irretrievably. When submitting your divorce petition, you will need to provide the court with your marriage certificate. If you were married abroad, the certificate must be translated into English before divorce proceedings can commence.

The D8 divorce petition is the main document in the divorce procedure and is therefore essential that you complete this document correctly.

The second stage of divorce proceedings involves the court sending a copy of the divorce application form to your spouse with a service recognition form that must be completed and returned within 7 days. The service recognition form confirms to the court that:

  • your spouse has received divorce papers
  • They are happy with the grounds for divorce and wording used.
  • If they agree with the divorce or want to dispute it.

The court will not pursue your former partner if they do not complete the AOS (Recognition of Service) within 7 days.

The course of action to be taken if you wish to proceed with the divorce is to instruct a judicial agent or a process server, who personally will deliver the divorce petition to the defendant. This step is essential if you want the procedures to continue and the costs vary.

If your spouse needs help filling out the form to make sure it is sent to the courts correctly, you should consult a respondent in the divorce service.


  • Decree nisi

At this stage of the divorce proceedings, you can now apply for the Nisi Decree (the first decree), which essentially consists of the court being unable to see a reason why you can not obtain a divorce. If the judge sees no reason why his divorce can not proceed, his Nisi Decree will rule and a pronouncement date will be established. Once you have a pronouncement date, you can request the final decree 6 weeks and 1 day after the date given by the court.

  • Request for Absolute Decree

The final step in the divorce process is to request the absolute decree, which is the final decree and is what legally ends your divorce. As we said before, the request for the absolute decree can not be made before 6 weeks and 1 day from the date of its pronouncement. An application for the absolute decree generally takes 2 weeks, which will then formally and legally end your marriage.

What are the reasons to start a divorce process?

Although there is really only one "reason" for divorce, which is that your marriage has been irretrievably broken, you must prove it to the court by establishing one of the following five facts:

  • Desertion
  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behavior
  • Separation of 2 years with consent.
  • 5-year separation - consent is not required



Divorce Fees:

The divorce court fees are set by the government and are currently £ 550 for England and Wales. You may not have to pay the fee, or you may get some money if you have low income or receive certain benefits such as:

  • Assignment of job applicant (JSA)
  • Subsidy for employment and maintenance (ESA)
  • Income support
  • Universal credit
  • Pension credit (guarantee credit)
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No case is the same as another, and we do not take a ‘one size fits all approach’ to our clients. We prepare and undertake a tailored strategy based on our client’s individual’s needs and circumstances. Our experienced team is able to provide advice and assistance in various legal areas.

Our team will undertake a formal review of your case documents and advise you on the suggested next steps. Our expertise in this area means that care and consideration will be used when reviewing your file. We understand that matters can be time sensitive and you will receive our advice promptly following our instructions.

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