David Kirkman discusses how long the divorce procedure usually takes and what it involves.
Making the decision to end a marriage is already a difficult process that is compounded by the possibility of more conflict and stress. It’s only natural that people are concerned with the average divorce timeline, with the most common question being – how long does it take to get a divorce? This article will outline the various factors that can affect the timeline of your divorce settlement and what can be done to expedite the process.
What is the average divorce timeline?
On April 6th 2022, the new no-fault divorce legislature was introduced, aiming to reduce conflict by removing the need to assign blame on one partner for the breakdown of the marriage. Under these new rules, the divorce process would take around 7 months, with the mandatory 26-week waiting period for the Conditional and Final orders.
In the past, a divorce would likely take around 4-6 months but could often take much longer because of having to assign blame, as well as accounting for the possibility of the other partner contesting the divorce. With the no-fault divorce, the longer waiting period has been balanced with a much simpler process and no possibility of contesting the grounds of the application, effectively amounting to a similar timeline.
The Divorce Timeline
With the introduction of the no-fault divorce, the different stages and time frames have been altered in accordance with the new legislation. These stages of a divorce and the subsequent timeline is as follows:
1. Divorce Application: The divorce application can now be filed either by filling in an online form or by filling in a paper application and posting it. The form can be completed by your divorce solicitor and submitted on your behalf.
If the form is submitted online, it will typically be processed within 10 days and the Court will formally “issue” your divorce. If the application has been posted, it can take up to a month for the divorce to be issued. Therefore, how long it takes to file for a divorce application will depend on the method used to submit the application. We would always recommend that the application is submitted online.
2. Acknowledgement of Service: If the divorce is a sole application i.e. only one spouse is filing for it, the other spouse is required to acknowledge and confirm the receipt of the application. This must be completed within 14 days of receiving it and can be done by filling out the “Acknowledgement of Service Form” and sending it back to the Court.
3. Conditional Order: The Conditional Order, previously known as the Decree Nisi, is a legal document which states that the couple is now allowed to proceed with the divorce. However, prior to the applicant applying for a Conditional Order, there is a 20-week wait period. This period is meant to give the couple some time to reflect on their decision in the hope of either reconciliation or time to sort out financial and child-care arrangements. It is important to note that this 20-week period is the mandated minimum timeframe and the Court can take longer to issue a Conditional Order, following the Applicant’s application.
4. Final Order: The Final Order was previously known as the Decree Absolute and is the final legal document confirming the official end of the marriage. The Applicant can only apply for the Final Order six weeks and one day after having received the Conditional Order.
How long does a divorce take from start to finish?
With these timeframes for the no-fault divorce, the minimum time period required for the divorce process is 26 weeks – 20 weeks to receive the Conditional Order plus 6 weeks for the Final Order. However, even the most straightforward cases that are amicable will often require more time for the parties to work through other important decisions.
The legal process of ending a marriage, as outlined above, is completely independent of a divorce settlement which will include child-care arrangements, if the couple have children together, and financial arrangements such as, dividing property, business assets, pensions, and other personal belongings.
If the couple are able to make these arrangements voluntarily and are satisfied with the outcome, this can be done ideally utilising the time provided during the reflection period. In order to protect the interests of both individuals and honour the agreement, it can be made legally binding by applying for a Consent Order. The Consent Order will provide reassurance in the form of evidence and security that neither individual can arbitrarily change their mind. A Consent Order can only be lodged at Court following the pronouncement of a Conditional Order. This is why it is recommended to utilise the reflection period to resolve the finances between the parties where possible.
However, if these details cannot be settled on, either party can apply to Court for a financial remedy from the marriage. Depending on when Court dates are set and the complexity of a case, this can take a few months or, in some cases, even a few years to finalise.
Non-confrontational methods to get a divorce faster
As mentioned above, the divorce proceedings can be quicker if you and your partner are able to settle the financial and child-care arrangements voluntarily outside of the Court. Two methods that can be used to quicken the process are:
A popular option for couples getting a divorce or separating in the UK, mediation is both cost-effective and generally quite fast. It is also the government’s recommended option for dealing with divorce ahead of making an application to Court to resolve the finances or child arrangements. The only disadvantage to attending mediation is that you are not receiving legal advice as to your position during the process.
Couples are advised to at least consider discussing their issues with a neutral mediator before proceeding to family court. The mediator will assist and guide you through resolving issues and deciding how to divide financial assets while also considering the best and most suitable arrangements for children involved.
This will require an initial meeting, known as the Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). This is a short 45-minute session which will outline the benefits of mediation and help you and your partner decide if this is viable in your situation.
The average timeline for divorce mediation will vary according to the circumstances and factors that need to be discussed and sorted out. While some couples may be able to do this within a couple of sessions, others may require a longer duration such as three to six weeks.
For all financial remedy proceedings at court, the Applicant must at least have attended a MIAM appointment before they applied to Court. The exceptions to this would be in cases of domestic abuse or if one spouse lives abroad.
As an agreement reached at mediation is not legally binding, it is recommended that parties have a Consent Order drawn up so the agreement cannot be reneged upon by either party in the future.
2. Collaborative Law:
Collaborative law is the process of entering negotiations in instances when mediation may not be appropriate. The option of collaborative law provides divorcing couples with the ability of being assisted and represented by their solicitors. This method is useful as the solicitors representing each party work collaboratively to try and reach an amicable settlement where possible. Additionally, other professionals such as accountants, tax advisors, chartered surveyors etc. may be consulted for further expertise. Although these negotiations will typically happen over the course of a few months, it is still a faster process than settling matters through the Court.
How can I speed up the process of getting a divorce?
Enlisting a divorce solicitor with specialised legal experience in divorce and family law will ensure the entire process runs smoothly and as quickly as possible. Your solicitor will be able to assist you in a timely manner with the following –
- Filling and submitting the divorce application quickly.
- Applying for the Conditional Order and Final Order as soon as possible.
- Legal guidance and assistance through financial and child-care arrangements.
- Representation during negotiations and at Court proceedings, where necessary.
So, in summary, how long does it take to get a divorce? The minimum mandated timescale is 26 weeks, but it is highly unlikely and very rare that the entire divorce process will be sorted exactly within this window. As discussed, the length of time needed will depend on the circumstances of each case and if the couple is willing to settle the division of property, assets, finances and child-care arrangements voluntarily or through the Court.
Our team at Newtons Solicitors understand that the process of getting a divorce can be emotionally taxing. Our expertise and experience with divorce cases will ensure you have our continued support and guidance throughout the process, so there are no unnecessary delays. Please contact us today if you are seeking legal advice regarding your divorce, including insight into how long your divorce should take.
WATCH: David Kirkman explains how long it takes to get a divorce
Transcript: “A divorce is quite a straightforward process if it’s uncontested and the other person cooperates. Often it will take four to six months from end to end.
There are different stages: there’s the divorce petition, then the other person has to acknowledge that they’ve received that and whether or not they intend to defend it. Then you can apply for decree nisi or decree absolute and each of those stages then takes a certain amount of time. You could get going quite quickly with the divorce petition, but after that there are some delays in how long the court takes to process it, and also certain notice periods that are set by law.
Once you’ve applied for the divorce petition, you’re maybe looking at around three to four months to get decree nisi, and after that you can apply for decree absolute six weeks and a day after decree nisi has been pronounced. So altogether that might take around four to six months, provided the other person has cooperated, not defended it, not just ignored the papers. If they do those things it could take longer, and if you’ve got financial matters to deal with, that can take longer as well.”