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The Divorce Process in England and Wales: How To Apply for a Divorce

Breaking up when you are married can be a challenging and emotionally charged process. If you find yourself considering getting a divorce in the UK, it's essential to understand the steps involved and the legal requirements.

This step-by-step guide will provide you with practical advice on how to initiate and navigate the divorce process in the UK. From filing for divorce to navigating the necessary documentation, we've got you covered. We'll walk you through the stages, ensuring you're equipped with the knowledge to make informed decisions during this life-changing journey.

How to get divorce papers in England and Wales


If you are married and living in England or Wales, it’s possible to get a divorce quickly without a solicitor. However, you must meet the following criteria:

  • • Your marriage must be legally recognised in the UK
  • • You’ve been married for over a year
  • • You are a legal UK resident

What are the grounds for divorce?

Before legislation changed on April 2022, you needed to prove that your marriage had broken down permanently and couldn't be saved by referring to at least one of these 5 grounds for divorce:

  • 1. Adultery: if your partner has had sexual intercourse with someone else, you can file for divorce. Yet, you cannot use this as a reason if you have lived together for 6 months after you found out about it.
  • 2. Desertion: your partner must have left you for at least 2 years before you apply.
  • 3. Unreasonable behaviour, such as:
    • - Physical violence
    • - Verbal abuse (insults or threats)
    • - Drunkenness or drug-taking
    • - Refusing to pay towards shared living expenses
  • 4. You’ve been separated for at least 2 years (and you have your partner’s written consent)
  • 5. You’ve been separated for at least 5 years (you don’t need your partner’s consent)

Update: thanks to the recent Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 there is now no need to assign blame to the other party.

Documentation needed

If you meet the conditions mentioned above, you can apply for divorce.You will require:

  • • Your husband or wife’s full name and address
  • • Your original marriage certificate or a certified copy
  • • A certified translation if your marriage ceritifcate is not in English
  • • Proof of your name change if you’ve changed it since you got married


Once you’ve gathered the necessary documents and information, you can choose to:

  • 1. Apply for divorce online.
  • 2. Get your divorce papers by post. You’ll need to download and fill in a divorce application form D8, also known as 'Divorce petition'. You must then send 3 copies of the form to your nearest divorce centre, or 4 if you named someone your partner committed adultery with. They’ll send one copy to your husband or wife. Keep your own copy of the forms.

What happens next?

Once your application has been checked, you’ll receive:

  • A notice that your application has been issued (sent out)
  • A copy of your application stamped by the divorce centre
  • A case number you can use to folllow your case and check your divorce application status

The court will then send your spouse the divorce application and an Acknowledgment of Service Form. They must respond to your request for divorce within 8 days. They can either agree, intend to prevent the divorce, or object to paying the costs (if you’ve claimed them).

If your spouse has agreed to the divorce, you can apply for a decree nisi, a document which states that the court sees no reason why you cannot divorce.

In case your spouse wants to defend the divorce, they must send a completed Answer Divorce Form to explain why they disagree with it. They must do so within 28 days of receiving the divorce application. If they fail to do this, you'll be able to apply for a decree nisi anyway, but you may have to attend a court hearing to discuss the case.

If the judge agrees to your request, the court will send a certificate to both parties which states when the decree nisi will be granted. The decree nisi cannot be used as proof of your divorce, but as a step towards obtaining the decree absolute, which is what actually ends your marriage.

You must wait 43 days after the decree nisi to apply for the decree absolute. Once you get the decree absolute, you’ll be legally divorced and free to marry again.

Please note: you should keep your decree absolute in a safe place as you’ll need it to marry again or in order to prove your marital status.

How long does it take to get divorced?

Processing times depend on whether you applied for divorce online or by post. It may take up to 10 days if you did it online and up to 1 month if you applied by post.


Regardless of how you choose to apply, you will have to pay a £550 fee and on top of the lawyer's fees (if you decided to use one. You can pay this fee by:

  • Credit or debit card if you apply online. You can also use this payment method if you apply by post, but you’ll require a call from the divorce centre to take payment.
  • Cheque made payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service’.

Did you know? If you have a low income or are on benefits, such as Universal Credit, you may be eleigble to get help paying court and tribunal fees and finisalise your divorce. This doesn't mean you will get a divorce for free. Learn more about it here.

Starting a New Chapter in Your Life

Getting a divorce in England and Wales can be a complicated process when you are not completely familiar with the steps you need to follow. This article clarified some common doubts and guided you through the process. However, if you’d rather have someone else navigate the sea of paperwork for you, we recommend you contact a solicitor's office to get legal advice.

What are the grounds for divorce uk