Do I have to go to court to get divorced?

Is the myth of the ‘quickie divorce’ finally going to be put to rest?

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James Harbottle
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Is the myth of the ‘quickie divorce’ finally going to be put to rest?

Lauren Preedy - Senior Associate Solicitor - Head of Divorce and Relationships Team
Lauren Preedy – Senior Associate Solicitor – Head of Divorce and Relationships Team

Almost everyone will have come across the term ‘quickie divorce’. It is used frequently in both national and local media (see, for example, this article in the Plymouth Herald), particularly in relation to celebrity divorces.

The term suggests that there is a different divorce procedure available to select couples, which enables them to get divorced much more quickly than anyone else, in perhaps a matter of just days.

This is a myth. There is no such thing as a ‘quickie divorce’. However, like so many myths this one does perhaps have its origins in reality.

Special procedure

Under the current divorce system there are in fact two different procedures that a divorce can follow.

The ‘normal procedure’, if you can call it that, follows a similar path to that used in most civil cases, culminating in a full hearing that the parties must attend, at which the court will decide whether or not to grant the divorce. This procedure is designed to deal with divorces that are defended.

However, the vast majority of divorces under the present system are not defended. There is therefore no need for a full hearing.

Accordingly, there is a separate procedure for undefended divorces, known as the ‘special procedure’. The special procedure essentially involves applying to the court for the divorce to proceed, without the necessity for a hearing.

And yes, the special procedure does usually mean that the divorce can be completed more quickly than under the ‘normal’ procedure. In fact, it is possible, in theory at least, for a divorce under the present system to be completed in as little as three months. A defended divorce will take much longer than that.

It may well be that the existence of the special procedure was what led to the myth of the quickie divorce. Journalists and others may have heard of the term, and assumed that it meant that special cases could be dealt with much more quickly than others.Do I have to go to court to get divorced?

But neither the parties nor their case need be special in any way to be dealt with under the special procedure. In fact, contrary to its name, there is nothing special about the special procedure, in the sense that it is the procedure followed in the vast majority of divorces.

And to be clear, the special procedure does not mean that the usual procedure will be short-circuited, so that the divorce will be concluded extremely quickly.

In fact, the divorce procedure is not usually the decisive factor when it comes to how quickly the divorce will be dealt with. In most cases the divorce is not finalised until financial/property issues have been resolved. And that is likely to take much longer than the divorce procedure.

An end to the myth of the quickie divorce?

As the reader will no doubt be aware, we are to have a new, no-fault, divorce system from this April.

Under the new system it will no longer be possible to defend a divorce. There will therefore no longer be any need to have two different divorce procedures. All divorces will follow the same procedure.

And that procedure may mean that the divorce itself will actually take longer than under the present system. A period of twenty weeks will have to elapse between the issuing of the divorce application and the making of the conditional divorce order (the equivalent of the present decree nisi), and a further six weeks will have to elapse before the divorce can be finalised. A divorce under the new system will therefore take a minimum of twenty-six weeks, or six months.Can divorce ever really be amicable

But there will still be the issue of sorting out finances before the divorce is finalised, meaning that many divorces will take more than six months.

But perhaps these changes, with just one procedure and longer divorce times, may at last mean that the myth of the quickie divorce is put to rest.



Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors are Award-Winning Family Law and Divorce Solicitors based in ExeterTaunton, Plymouth as well as many other locations across South West.

Please get in touch via our contact page and speak with one of our Specialist Solicitors today and see if we can help you with your situation.

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