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Divorce rights: How do I file for divorce?

With almost half of all marriages, in the UK, ending in divorce it is clear that a lot of people will be either directly or indirectly affected by divorce at some point. For most people, this is a difficult time in their lives and access to clear, accurate and unbiased information in crucial.

With this in mind Warners Solicitors’ three-part series looks at the divorce process. This first part looks at the actual process, why it happens and how to file for divorce. Parts two and three will look at the various options when it comes to resolving the financial aspects of divorce as well as the ways in which children will be considered in the process.

Reasons for divorce

In reality the reasons for divorce are complex and varied. Many divorces are acrimonious with both sides locked in a bitter battle to the end but just as many are fairly amicable with neither side blaming the other. However, currently, there is no option for a ‘no fault divorce’ in England and Wales. This may change as the government has just launched a consultation to review the process.

Under existing divorce law, in order to be granted a divorce, you must demonstrate that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The process requires proof in the form of one or more of the five legally recognised “facts” for marital breakdown.

  • Adultery – Your spouse had sexual intercourse with a person of the opposite sex whilst married to you. Same sex affairs cannot constitute adultery although they can be an example of unreasonable behaviour. Adultery can only be relied on if the divorce proceedings are begun within six months of the last event of adultery.
  • Unreasonable behaviour -The most common reason for divorce, this covers a variety of issues in the marriage including abusive behaviour, falling out of love and lack of sexual contact.
  • Desertion – Your spouse has left you to end the relationship non-consensually for at least two years.
  • Two years consensual separation – You and your spouse have been separated for at least two years and both agree that a divorce is necessary.
  • Five years non-consensual separation – You and your spouse have been separated for at least five years but there has been no consent to divorce on the fact of two years separation or since.

If any of these facts apply to your marital situation you should be able to begin the process of filing for divorce. The procedure is started using the D8 divorce petition form.


Before divorce proceedings can begin there is an application stage that must be dealt with. You will need to acquire and fill in a D8 form which can be found on the court service website. The court fee for issue of a divorce petition is £550. You will also need to establish where your local divorce administrative centre is. Most divorces in the South East are started in the Bury St Edmunds Family Court.

When filling in the divorce form you will need to know your spouse’s full address so that they can be sent the petition for divorce.

Once filled in you should send three copies of the form to your local divorce centre. Be sure to keep at least one copy of the form for yourself.

The divorce centre will check over your forms and if they have all been filled in correctly you will receive a notice that your application (the petition) has been approved and issued to your spouse (a stamped copy of your application and a case number). Your spouse, on the other hand, will be sent a copy of the divorce petition and a form of service that asks whether they intend to defend the divorce and if they object to paying any costs that you may have claimed. They have a week to respond.

The process

If your spouse responds indicating that they will not defend or contest the proceedings the next stage is to apply for a date for decree nisi. If your spouse indicates an intention to contest the proceedings you should obtain specialist family law advice at that stage because the procedure becomes far more complex. Generally, having legal assistance during your divorce proceedings will help you resolve financial issues the right way and ensure that any paperwork is filled in correctly.

Whether you have no contest in the divorce or a judge decides to grant the decree nisi, you will still have to wait six weeks for the divorce to be finalised. 43 days after being granted a decree nisi, you will have to apply for a decree absolute: the document that ends your marriage. As long as the time limit has been met and there are no new reasons for them not to grant the divorce, both you and your spouse will receive a decree absolute and your marriage will end. Keep the decree absolute safe, as you are likely to need it if you ever remarry.

Do you need a divorce solicitor?

If your divorce is uncontested, that is both you and your partner agree that you want to get divorced and the reason why, it is possible to get divorced without a solicitor. However, if there is any disagreement about the divorce or who will pay the divorce fees, you should seek independent legal advice.

The divorce process will end your marriage. You will still need to work out what to do with your money, property and children separately. It is vitally important that you receive advice in relation to the finances. Many people make the mistake of thinking that once they have a decree absolute the financial aspects of the marriage breakdown have been resolved. This could not be further from the truth as many people have found out to their cost.

In the next article in this series, the Warners’ team will look at the options for resolving the financial aspects of divorce.

If you are thinking of, or are currently in the process of, filing for divorce contact the Warners Solicitors family law team for expert legal advice.

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since the date this article was published.

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