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The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force on 6 April 2022, this made amendments to the process to obtain a divorce. It is no longer required to give a reason for the divorce, which in some ways has sped up the process. However, the introduction of mandatory wait periods, more information on this later, has slowed the divorce process down, on average taking between 6 to 7 months. Before making a divorce application it is important to understand your options and what happens along the process.
To start the process, you can apply for a divorce by using the online application or by post. This application is quick and easy to fill out. However, it is important that there are no mistakes in your application as it will be sent back and you will have to submit it again, causing delays. Previously, only one person in a marriage could make this application, however as of 6 April 2022 it is possible for both parties to jointly apply and there is no longer a requirement to provide a fact or reason for the divorce.
If you decide to make a joint application, this could speed up the process as there is no opportunity for your spouse to dispute the divorce. In the instance of a sole application, once your spouse receives a copy of the application from the court, they then have 14 days to respond and say if they agree with or intend to dispute the divorce.
Previously, a respondent could ‘defend’ a divorce application on the basis of the reason given for the divorce. For example, if they did not agree with the details on the application of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, a court hearing would need to take place to provide evidence of such fact. As of 6 April 2022, a divorce application can no longer be ‘defended’ but may be ‘disputed’ if:
This makes it far more challenging for a respondent to dispute a divorce, speeding up the divorce process and avoiding significant delays incurred by a court hearing at this stage.
Once your divorce application has been issued, the law then requires both parties to wait 20 weeks before it is possible to advance to the next step in the divorce process. This wait period was introduced on 6 April 2022, to allow for you and your partner to reflect and consider the divorce. This can be frustrating for those who may have already been separated for a long time, or those entirely opposed to the possibility for reconciliation. Thus, it may be advisable to start your application sooner rather than later.
After those 20 weeks have passed, it is then possible to apply for a conditional order, previously known as a ‘decree nisi’. After you receive your conditional order from the court (which can take several weeks) you must then wait a further 44 days minimum, before you can apply for a final order, previously known as ‘decree absolute’.
It is advisable to delay applying for your final order until you have resolved matters in relation to finances and children (if applicable), which can take some time depending on the process option you proceed with. If 12 months have passed since you applied for your conditional order and you now wish to apply for a final order, you will have to notify the court as to the reason for your delay in doing so.
Once you have received your approved final order from the court, you are officially divorced. Considering the mandatory wait periods, this is usually 6 to 7 months after you made your initial application. However, this could be longer if you delay applying for the final order because you still have ongoing proceedings surrounding arrangements for finances and/or children. How long these proceedings take is dependent upon the individual facts of your case and the dispute resolution method you decide to use. Mediation, solicitor-led negotiation and arbitration can be more time-effective methods than using the courts. The court process is slow and incurs significant delays, for the most part taking a minimum of 12 months.
It is important that you decide on the right dispute resolution method for you and your family. If you want to discuss with a specialist your options, you can make an initial appointment with one of our expert solicitors, who can provide support from making your initial divorce application, all the way to finalising arrangements for finances and children.