A quick guide to divorce and civil partnership dissolution

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Although every divorce or civil partnership dissolution is different, in this insight we set out the typical steps that make up the process.

Divorce proceedings will take a minimum of 6 and a half months but may take longer depending on a variety of factors, such as to what extent you and your ex-partner are already in agreement regarding the division of finances, childcare, and so on. A divorce or dissolution can be broken down into various steps to help you to understand the structure of the process. You may be under the impression that a specific reason must be provided for the breakdown of the relationship and thus why the divorce has occurred. Following a change in the law in 2020, and the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce, this is no longer the case. Instead, it must simply be confirmed that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. No additional evidence is required.

Initial steps

  1. Getting legal advice early is important in any situation involving a divorce or civil partnership dissolution. However, in particularly vulnerable situations such as where there is a high level of dispute regarding children or assets, e.g. property or investments, this is especially key. Although an individual can attempt to obtain a divorce or dissolution without legal advice.
  2. Care may need to be taken to ensure that you can legally get divorced in England and Wales. To start divorce proceedings, you must confirm that one or both parties either have habitual residence or domicile in England and Wales. If you are uncertain whether you and your ex-partner may meet one of these definitions, we will be able to advise you accordingly.
  3. Once engaged, a solicitor can then help to discuss your legal and mediation options to minimise both the length of time and potential stress in reaching an agreement with your ex-partner.

Next steps

  1. You may make an application for a divorce or dissolution either as a sole applicant or as a joint application with your ex-partner. Generally, each party pays their own costs unless there is a reason to make a costs application, for example your ex-partner has purposely held up the divorce and made you incur unnecessary costs.
  2. Your ex-partner will be served the application and any other documents (if you were a sole applicant) and has a set amount of time to acknowledge service of the application.
  3.  At this point either party can apply for various financial orders. Whether these are necessary will vary according to each individual’s circumstances. Such an order could, for example, alter property ownership, provide for maintenance payments, or provide a lump sum payment to one party.
  4. If your ex-partner does not dispute the proceedings (the ability to do so is very limited), then 20 weeks after the application for divorce or dissolution was issued by the court you can then apply for a conditional order, which is the first stage of the divorce or dissolution order. You must confirm the contents of the application either remains unchanged or what changes have occurred.
  5. Finally, after six weeks and one day following the conditional order being made, the final order may be applied for. The marriage or civil partnership will then be ended formally. Please note you may be advised against making this application if there are any pending applications for financial orders which are yet to be resolved.

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