The Divorce Process: A Guide

The Divorce Process: A Guide

Choosing to get a divorce can be emotionally draining and expensive, and the process can become even more complicated if your spouse defends the divorce or you cannot agree on what grounds to separate. Understanding how the divorce process works in England and Wales is crucial to ensuring that you and your partner avoid unnecessary conflict. In this guide, we look at when you can apply for divorce, how to start the process, the grounds for divorce, refusing a divorce application, and who pays for the divorce.

If you need advice or assistance following the breakdown of a relationship, I can help. As a specialist divorce lawyer, I can provide bespoke advice whatever your circumstance. Contact me today on 07917 711 887, or by completing the online contact form.

When can you apply for a divorce?

In England and Wales, you can divorce if you and your spouse have been married for at least one year. In addition, your marriage must be legally recognised in Britain, you or your partner must be permanently based in the UK, and you must be able to prove your relationship has irreparably broken down.

How do you start the divorce process?

If you want a divorce, you must apply to the court. The spouse who begins the divorce proceedings is commonly referred to as the petitioner and must complete and submit the divorce petition to the court.

The petitioner must prove the marriage has broken down irretrievably by stating one of five accepted grounds as the reason for the divorce. Choosing the right one is crucial as the other party – known as the respondent – will be required to acknowledge and reply to the application before the divorce process can move forward.

Once your divorce petition is checked and confirmed, the petitioner will then be sent:

  • A confirmation notice of the petition
  • A stamped copy of the application from the UK divorce centre
  • A specific case number

What are the five grounds for divorce?

Legislation in England and Wales continues to be criticised by the public, with hope to reform the 50-year-old laws that force partners to blame one another in the near future. While there are proposals to introduce a no-fault divorce and file a joint petition, there are currently only five ways in which you can demonstrate your marriage has broken down to the court:

  • Adultery: If one or both partners have engaged in relations with someone outside of the marriage. To file for divorce under the adultery ground, you must apply within six months of discovering the adultery as this particular reason is only accepted if the partner finds it intolerable to live with their spouse as a result.
  • Unreasonable behaviour: This can apply to any action that makes you no longer able to live with your spouse, and includes physical violence, threats or illegal behaviour, such as drug-taking.
  • Desertion: If your spouse has up and left your marriage without your agreement and without reason, this is known as desertion. You do not need the consent of the other spouse to divorce if they have been absent for more than two years within the space of the past 30 months.
  • Separation for two years or more: Similar to the desertion filing, you can live together for up to six months during this period and your spouse must agree to the filing in writing.
  • Separation for five years or more: If you and your partner have lived separately for at least five years, then you do not need the approval of your spouse to get divorced. In these circumstances, the court will typically grant the divorce.

Can you refuse to get divorced?

If your partner has petitioned for divorce under one of the five accepted grounds, you must file your acknowledgement of the notice within seven days if you are responding online, or eight days if you are responding by post. In your response, you must confirm whether you intend to defend or accept the divorce.

Your spouse can go ahead with applying for a decree nisi – a document that states the court sees no reason for you not to divorce – if you do not defend the divorce petition. However, should you choose to refuse the application, both you and your spouse must prepare to go to court to try and come to an agreement. The petitioner can still apply for a decree nisi even when the respondent defends the divorce. Under these circumstances, the petitioner will have to go to a court hearing to discuss the case where a judge will conclude whether or not to grant a decree nisi.

If you are the respondent and wish to refuse the divorce, you must complete an ‘answer to a divorce’ petition to state why you disagree with your spouse’s application. You have 28 days to submit this particular form.

Whether you are against the divorce because you still have faith in your marriage or you are concerned you will be left in a financially bad situation, it is vital not to stay in a relationship for the wrong reasons. Not only will the court process become more gruelling, but you could hurt your family even more so by dragging it on. Gaining expert legal advice from a professional divorce lawyer can make the difference between a successful divorce process and one that becomes both complex and exhaustive. Get in touch with Lindsay Jones Divorce Lawyer today to see how I can help you.

Who pays for a divorce?

The spouse who applies for the divorce is responsible for paying the court fee of £550. The petitioner automatically pays the court fees on top of the cost of submitting the divorce paperwork and obtaining legal advice. The respondent, on the other hand, is only expected to cover their own legal fees.

There are cases when the petitioner can ask the respondent to pay their costs. Divorce legislation in England and Wales allows the petitioner to claim costs against the respondent and this generally occurs when blame is attributed to the respondent for the relationship breakdown, or in a two-year separation where both parties agree. For example, if you are filing for divorce under the grounds of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour, then the petitioner has the right to seek a claim for costs from the respondent.

If the respondent does not agree with the petitioner, there will be a costs hearing after the decree nisi has been pronounced. The respondent will be given the chance to explain why they should not have to pay the divorce costs (this is typically related to not having enough funds to pay the fees). Following on from a financial assessment, the judge will subsequently decide how much the respondent should pay.

Contact Lindsay Jones Specialist Divorce Lawyer Altricham, Cheshire, Manchester & Wilmslow

Making the decision to end your marriage can be devastating. I have years of experience in helping clients achieve a successful divorce, making the process as simple and pain-free as possible.

Alongside qualified divorce advice, I offer a range of family law services including financial settlements and child law. You can be sure I will treat your personal circumstances in strict confidence and always keep you informed of how your divorce case is progressing. To discuss your case with me, call today on 07917 711 887, or contact me online. I look forward to helping you find peace of mind and move on with your life.

Additional resources

To assist you during an often-difficult time, I have created some additional resources to help guide you through the process of divorce or separation. Get in touch with me today to talk about your specific circumstances, and we can work towards a better outcome together.

Coping with Relationship Breakdown

Achieving Financial Separation

Supporting your Child during Divorce or Separation



COVID-19 Update from Lindsay Jones

During these extraordinary times, I remain open for business and will be happy to help you should you require legal advice. In line with government advice, I will be working from home and can be contacted on 07917 711 887 or

I wish you all the very best. Stay safe and stay well.