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Divorce, a step by step guide

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Walker Family Law
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So you have decided that you want a divorce. But how do you go about getting one? This guide should provide you with the basic information that you need to know.

Divorce essentially involves three steps: making the application, receiving the conditional order (where the court confirms your entitlement to the divorce), and getting the final order.

We will now go through each of these steps in a little more detail.

How to get a divorce

Step 1: The divorce application

Completing an application and sending it to the court initiates the process. Please note that one cannot make the application until one year has elapsed from the date of the marriage.

One party can make the application, or both parties can make the application jointly.

The application contains, amongst other things, details of both parties, details of the marriage, and a statement by one or both parties that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The court must accept that statement as proof that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, which is the ground for divorce.

The application must include your original or certified marriage certificate and the current court fee of £593.

The court will issue the application and check it. If there are no problems, they will send notice to the applicant(s) that it has been issued.

If one party made the application, the court will send a copy to the other party along with a form. The other party should complete the form, acknowledging receipt of the application and stating whether they agree with the divorce.

The other party cannot oppose the divorce because they do not believe that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. They can only oppose the divorce if they do not believe that the court has jurisdiction to deal with the divorce, if they can prove that the marriage was never valid, or if the marriage has already legally ended.

Step 2: The Conditional Order

After issuance, the applicant(s) must wait twenty weeks from the application date before progressing the divorce. This is often referred to as the ‘period for reflection’, during which the applicant(s) can consider whether they do, indeed, wish to have their marriage dissolved.

If they wish to proceed, after 20 weeks, they can apply for the divorce to move forward.

The court will then check that the divorce can proceed and, if so, fix a date for the conditional divorce order to be made. By making the conditional order the court is stating that there is no reason why a divorce cannot take place. 

Step 3: The Final Order

After six weeks have elapsed from the conditional order the party or parties in whose favour the conditional order was made may give notice to the court that they wish the conditional order to be made final. (Please note that it is usually not advisable to finalise until financial arrangements have been sorted out.)

If the court receives the notice and finds no reason not to, it will finalise the conditional order.

If given over 12 months later, the notice must include an explanation stating why the application wasn’t made earlier.

Lastly, if one party has received a conditional order but hasn’t applied to finalize it, the other party can apply to make the conditional order final anytime after three months from the first available application date.


Please note that the above only covers the process of getting the divorce itself. It notably excludes sorting financial and child arrangements, which can be more complex.

How can we help?

For further information on how we can help, please see our Divorce & Separation page.

Walker Family Law is an award-winning family law practice, recognised as one of the leading family law firms in the South West of England with services covering family law mediationdivorce lawchild-law and arbitration.

Please contact us if you require any further information.