Sadly, marriage is not always the ‘happily ever after’ couples expect it to be. In 2018, there were 90,871 divorces of opposite-sex couples in England and Wales. To get a divorce in the UK you must have been married for more than one year. The average UK marriage that ends in divorce lasts 12.5 years, according to research by the Office for National Statistics. If the love has gone from your marriage, it may be time to file for divorce.

Getting a UK divorce can be a straightforward process. The divorce procedure in England and Wales mainly consists of paperwork, completing various documents and getting them filed at Court.

How to get a UK divorce

To file for divorce in the UK, you will need to:

  • File a divorce petition form (D8)
  • Pay court fees (a £550 required court payment)
  • File a Decree Nisi application to the court
  • Apply for a Decree Absolute to confirm the end of your marriage

There are a few things you need to consider before you begin the process. The steps prior to getting a divorce include checking you are eligible to get divorced, seeking legal advice from a family lawyer and making arrangements for your children, money and property. Once you have done this, you can then begin to file for a divorce.

Grounds for Divorce

In the UK, there are five accepted grounds for divorce. When you apply for a divorce, you will need to prove that your marriage has permanently broken down beyond repair. In order to do this, you will need to give one or more of the following five reasons for divorce:


If your husband or wife has had sexual intercourse with someone else, meaning they have committed adultery, you can apply for a divorce. However, you cannot provide adultery as a reason for divorce if you continued living together as a couple for more than six months after you found out.

Unreasonable behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is another accepted reason for divorce. If your husband or wife has behaved in a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with them, this could be grounds for divorce.

Unreasonable behaviour could include:

  • Physical violence
  • Verbal abuse
  • Drunkenness or drug-taking
  • Refusal to pay towards shared living expenses


You can file for divorce under the grounds of desertion. The reason of desertion applies if your husband or wife has left you for at least 2 years before you apply for divorce. You can still claim desertion as the reason for divorce if you have lived together for a maximum total of 6 months during this time. However, the time spent together will not count towards the two-year period.

Separation for at least 2 years

You can apply for a divorce if you and your husband or wife have been separated for at least 2 years. However, you can only apply for divorce if you both agree to it. Your partner must agree in writing.

You may be able to apply for a divorce under the grounds of having been separated for at least 2 years while living in the same house. In this situation, you will need to be able to show that although you live in the same house, you do not live together as a couple (for example you eat and sleep separately).

Separation for at least 5 years

If you and your husband or wife have been separated for at least 5 years, you can apply for a divorce. In this situation, you can apply for a divorce even if your husband or wife disagrees with the request.

Before initiating proceedings, it is advisable that you and your husband or wife try to come to an agreement on arrangements for looking after any children you have and child maintenance payments. We understand that divorces can be extremely emotional, especially for any children involved. Therefore, our family lawyers are on hand to support you as you make arrangements for shared childcare and child maintenance payments following your formal separation.

Before filing for a divorce, you may both also come to agreement on how to divide your money and property. If you need help coming to an agreement on how to divide your finances or property, our family lawyers are available to assist you.

Going to court can be emotionally unsettling for you and your family. Because of the emotional and financial effects divorce can have on your family, it is preferable to be able to sort your finances independent of court. If you choose to come to an agreement between yourselves, our team of family lawyers can act as solicitors to negotiate on your behalf. By working with our family law experts, you can reach an agreement with your husband or wife regarding your decision on how to share your finances and property.

You can usually avoid having to go to court hearings if you and your partner can agree about children, money, property and your reason for why the marriage has broken down.

How to apply 

To apply for a UK divorce, you must have your husband or wife’s full name and address, your original marriage certificate (or a certified copy), and proof of your name change if you changed it since getting married.

You can apply for a divorce online. In order to apply, you must pay a £550 fee. However, you must apply by post by submitting an application form (D8) if you are filing to end a civil partnership or if your husband or wife has a solicitor acting on their behalf.

After you have applied for a divorce, your application will be checked. If it is correct, you will be issued with a notice that your application has been sent out, a copy of your application stamped by the divorce centre, and a case number. The application checking process may take up to 10 days if you applied online or 1 month if you applied by post.

Your husband or wife will then be issued an acknowledgement of service form asking if they agree with the divorce, if they intend to try to prevent the divorce, and if they object to paying the costs. 

If they agree to the divorce or fail to respond to the ‘answer to divorce’ form, you can continue by applying for a decree nisi. However, if they complete an ‘answer to divorce’ form stating that they disagree with the application, you may have to attend court to discuss your case.

Applying for decree nisi and decree absolute

A decree nisi is a divorce document that states that the court does not seen any reason why you cannot get divorced. You can apply for a decree nisi if your husband or wife does not defend your petition.

If your husband or wife disagree with the application, you can still apply for a decree nisi. However, you will need to go to court to discuss the case and find out if a judge will grant you the decree nisi.

If your decree nisi application is approved, you will receive a certificate informing you that you have been granted a decree nisi. However, you will still be married after the decree nisi has been granted. You must wait 6 weeks and 1 day (43 days) before you can apply for a decree absolute.

The decree absolute is a document that confirms the end of your marriage. If you want a legally binding arrangement for dividing money and property you must apply to the court for this before applying for a decree absolute.

Once your decree absolute has been approved by the court you will be divorced and no longer married. Make sure you keep the decree absolute safe as you will need to show it if you choose to remarry or if you need to prove your martial status.

Family Lawyer to support your application

As detailed, the process involves a lot of paperwork and can be an emotional experience for all involved. If you are thinking about getting a divorce, our experienced family solicitors near Manchester will be able to advise and guide you through the process. We will outline your options and inform you of everything that needs to be to ensure you resolve your case as quickly and amicably as possible.

We can manage your case for a fixed fee of £500+VAT. 

Contact us today to find out how our team can help you.