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Divorce & Separation

Marriage and relationship breakdown



This page is in the process of being updated to reflect recent changes in the law.

For a glossary of terms you might come across during this process, please click here.


Divorce or dissolution can be one of the most daunting and stressful experiences in your life. Using our extensive expertise we aim to make the process as stress free as possible. We will be with you every step of the way. 

The divorce and dissolution process can be very straightforward, although sometimes there can be complicating factors.  The word ‘divorce’ will be used throughout but refers both to dissolution and divorce.

The divorce process is normally entirely paper-based and does not require an appearance in Court. Recent changes to the law mean that you can even file for divorce yourself online. 

Anyone can apply to get divorced, as long as they have been married or in a civil partnership for at least one year. 

This is the current process for a straightforward divorce*:

A. One party ‘petitions’ for divorce. A petition can be agreed with the other party. The party applying is called the ‘Petitioner’. The other party is called the ‘Respondent’. You will need to be able to satisfy one of the following criteria to demonstrate that the marriage has broken down irretrievably:

  1. The Respondent has committed adultery (heterosexual marriage only);
  2. The Respondent has behaved in a way that means you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her;
  3. You have been separated for two years and both agree to the divorce;
  4. You have been separated for five years (whether or not the Respondent agrees to a divorce); or
  5. The Respondent has deserted you for at least two years.

If the Respondent does not agree to the divorce or what you have written in the petition, you may need to go to Court. We can guide you through this process and find the best way forward for you; 

B. The Respondent acknowledges receipt of the petition. If they do not do so, extra steps are required;

C. The Petitioner applies for Decree Nisi;

D. Following a period of at least six weeks and one day after the date of Decree Nisi, the Petitioner may apply for Decree Absolute, which will end the marriage. You should consider if your financial arrangements need to be finalised and approved by the Court before you apply for Decree Absolute. 

The divorce process is completely separate to the process for dealing with finances and any arrangements for children. These matters are usually much more complicated but we can assist you in dealing with them, even if you have applied for your own divorce.

Divorce for international couples

If one or both of you lives abroad, or if one of you has another nationality (other than British), then there are complicated rules that determine in which country your divorce can take place.

If you think your husband or wife may be going to petition for divorce in a country outside England and Wales, you should act quickly to ensure the divorce is dealt with in the most advantageous country for you. We can give rapid and expert advice on this.

Separation for unmarried couples

If you are neither married nor in a civil partnership, you will not need to go through the divorce process outlined above, but there will probably still be financial matters that you will need to address. You will also need to agree arrangements for any children.

Click here for an overview on Property & Finances and click here for an overview on Children matters. 

*The law is due to change later this year (2021) on commencement of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.  For further information, click here.

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