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How long will your divorce take

How long will your divorce take?

Apr 29th, 2021

Emma Lawler, Partner

When you take away the angst, heartache, stress and a whole host of other emotions around divorcing, a divorce itself is usually straightforward… if you both co-operate with each step and there are no unforeseen delays at court.

Starting the process

A divorce can now be started via the court online system called “HMCTS online.” Your solicitor has access to the online portal and once they have drafted your divorce petition and you have approved it and paid the court fee, they will upload the documents on to the portal. The court will then process the application and send a copy of the documents to your spouse. Whilst the papers will be sent to your spouse in the post, they respond to the divorce online via the portal.

Decree Nisi

The next stage is for you to apply for Decree Nisi. Your solicitor will send you a statement to sign in support of your application. Once you have signed and returned the statement, the documents will be uploaded on to the portal. The court staff will process the application and at this stage, your divorce petition will be put before a Judge so they can check the grounds for the divorce and confirm they are satisfied you are entitled to a divorce based on the content of your petition. Once this has happened you will receive a “certificate of entitlement” which your solicitor will send to you along with the date your Decree Nisi will be “pronounced.”

Decree Absolute

Your Decree Nisi is available to download a day or two after it is pronounced. Your solicitor will send a copy to you. You can apply for Decree Absolute 6 weeks and 1 day after your Decree Nisi date. However, your solicitor will usually advise you to delay applying for Absolute until the financial aspects of your divorce are resolved.

Financial settlements

The divorce can take 4-6 months. However, if you have financial issues to resolve as part of your divorce, this can delay the process. Most couples can negotiate a financial settlement as part of the divorce. Assuming you both provide the information, your solicitor asks for and are able to agree a settlement, you can still finalise your divorce within around 6 months. If, however there are delays with obtaining financial information, or negotiations are not successful, or you have to issue court proceedings, delays can be encountered. It can often take around 12 months even if you agree a financial settlement.

Court proceedings

Court proceedings to resolve financial issues are usually only issued as a last resort. It is therefore usual for some time to have passed already before you do start that process. If you need to issue court proceedings, the court will set a timetable for your case. Most cases settle before reaching a final hearing. If your case does settle before final hearing, a typical timescale for your divorce is around 12-18 months from start to finish. If your case does not settle and there is a final hearing, your divorce could take 18-24 months.

Take advice

Each case is different, and we will provide you with an estimated timescale at the start of your case. To talk to us in confidence contact us, your first conversation will not cost you anything, no matter how long it takes.

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Emma Lawler


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