A simplified guide to divorcing in the UK

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Going through a divorce is no easy feat, and it can cause a lot of emotional tension at the best of times.

Unless you have been through a divorce before, the process may appear to be complicated and it certainly can be when taking finances and children into account, and you should seek the help of a solicitor trained in divorce.

But what exactly does the process include?

Solely or together?

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Since the introduction of no-fault divorces, it is now possible for you and your spouse to apply for a divorce together.

This is desirable if you both agree you need to divorce and if you or your former spouse are not at risk of domestic violence.

Of course, there is still the option to apply for a divorce as a sole applicant, which would be a better choice if you are at risk of domestic violence, if there is infidelity or if your partner has behaved irresponsibly. This can be tough to navigate, and that is why you should always seek the advice of divorce solicitors in Guildford.


In order to begin the application, you will need your former spouse’s address, their name, the original marriage certificate and proof of any name changes that may have occurred since you have been married.

There is a fee that needs to be paid under UK law for divorce and there are options that can help you to pay this if you are struggling. So, talk to your solicitor.

Conditional order or decree nisi

No-fault divorces have replaced the term decree nisi with conditional orders. But, once you have applied, you will receive either a conditional order or a decree nisi, which states that the court sees no legal reason why you cannot divorce.

However, after you have applied for divorce, you need to wait at least 20 weeks before applying for either the conditional order or decree nisi. During this time, your solicitor will likely want you to attend mediation sessions to attempt to resolve any potential issues that are likely to come up after the marriage has ended.

Finalising the divorce

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After you have received the decree nisi or conditional order, you are then able to apply to finalise the divorce.

If you applied for a no-fault divorce, this is the application for the final order, and if you are applying solely, it is the decree absolute. After you receive the decree nisi or the conditional order, you will need to wait 43 days to apply to finalise the divorce.

Once you receive the final order or the decree absolute, you are separated or divorced.

Potential issues

When applying for divorce by yourself, your spouse may decide that they do not agree with the reasons for this, such as inappropriate behaviour or adultery. This can allow them to challenge the divorce, which can extend the aforementioned periods.

If your husband or wife lacks the mental capacity, you will need to put the process through the person who is overseeing their affairs legally and is usually known as a ‘litigation friend’.