When considering divorce the first question people often ask themselves is “how long will it take and where do I start?”

Whilst this will most likely be one of the most stressful periods of your life, with very sensible and practical considerations, you can begin a new, and much happier chapter in your life.

In today’s article, Chris will be answering those questions and helping you understand how to initiate divorce proceedings.

No-Fault Divorce and the impact on the divorce process

Since April 2022, the whole idea of blame has been removed from divorce. Unreasonable behaviour, length of separation and adultery are all things in the past of acrimonious divorces.

Now, the process has been made much simpler so the separating parties can focus on the most important part of the divorce, including sorting out the finances and ensuring any children are still the number one focus between separating parents.

So now blame has gone, the new process allows for both parties to agree that the marriage has broken down and apply jointly for the divorce – you can still make a solo application if you want, but the new process allows for both.

Whether you apply jointly or individually, the time scales for the divorce process is the same – which takes a minimum of 26 weeks from the date of application to the final order being granted by the court service and your marriage being formally dissolved.

What is the process for divorce?

The process starts with an application, now done online, to the HMCTS Court Service portal. The court receives the application and then issues a notice to the parties for them to acknowledge the divorce process has been commenced.

Once the court is satisfied and both parties are aware the divorce has been applied for, the case must go into a 20-week holding period before a conditional order can be applied for. The thinking behind this is to give the couple one last chance to have a period to reflect on whether they do want to finally end the marriage. In all my years of being involved with the law, I have never come across a couple who in this holding period (in the new regime or previously between Nisi and Absolute) who decide they have fallen back in love again and decide to pull out of the divorce process – but the option is there at this stage.

This 20-week period should be used to effectively sort out financial arrangements and plans for the children. In simple cases, this timetable can often be kept to, but where family finances are a little more complicated and need further investigation, the timetable may slip until all matters are fully resolved.

From experience, the newly drafted divorce process should have been firmer when changing the law last year and say this 20-week period is fixed and all divorces must be concluded within the timetable. My thinking for this is that the flexibility on this period still allows lawyers to drag their feet which only has the impact of driving up costs for clients.

My preference would have been for family finances to have been resolved and then the divorce applied for. Focus the lawyers on resolving the finances quickly and efficiently and then proceed with the divorce.

Once the 20-week period has elapsed, the parties can apply for the conditional, order of divorce which is the beginning of the end road to divorce. The conditional order is granted by the court service and then another 6-week holding period is entered into before the Final order can be applied for dissolving the marriage.

Once the Final order is issued by the court and again this can be applied for online, the marriage is over, and parties are free to get on with the rest of their lives however they wish to.

Final thoughts

So now you know the process of a divorce and the steps you need to take.

You can certainly apply for a divorce yourself – it’s a relatively straightforward process online. But what you need to do, is take some expert advice about the implications of divorce on your children and the division of your marital finances. The divorce process is simple, sorting out life’s complications’ can be more difficult.

Ensure all issues surrounding the division of finances are sorted before the Final Order for divorce is granted, as once this is granted resolving the distribution of marital assets can be more complicated.

Do not forget to talk to an independent lawyer who can provide you with expert advice on all your rights, as they can provide you with guidance on the way the law looks to distribute financial assets and how the court would look to deal with disputed plans for the children.

Most importantly, work with your ex-partner to resolve all matters as amicably as possible – as it will save both parties time, money, and heartache.

Work with your ex-partners lawyers if they have them in a collaborative way to avoid stress and conflict. And be realistic about what you want to achieve in the whole divorce process.

Chris Sweetman is an independent family solicitor and director of Fair Result – An award-winning law office who pride themselves on using innovative ways to help clients through the stress and complications of a marriage break down.

Chris can be contacted on 07500933818 or via email chris@fair-result.co.uk.