The Typical Timeframe?

Due to the reduction in number of Family Courts in England & Wales in recent years, it can take between four to six months to get a divorce. However, it is not good practice to terminate a marriage until finances are resolved. This is because the termination of the marriage affects inheritance rights, pension rights and taxation. It may therefore take between 6 months to 18 months to resolve all matters stemming for the breakdown of the marriage. How long the process takes depends on whether you are able to resolve financial matters yourselves through direct negotiation at home, in mediation or through solicitors, or whether it is necessary to issue court proceedings to resolve financial matters.

How long does the divorce process take?

The divorce process itself is relatively simple to navigate. It is more usual for divorcing couples to encounter issues over resolving financial matters or issues surrounding the children. In order to avoid increasing tension, it is sensible to agree the basis for the divorce before proceedings are issued by forwarding a draft petition beforehand. It is also prudent to agree who pays for the divorce before proceedings are issued. The petitioner in an adultery or unreasonable behaviour petition is entitled to the costs of the divorce (- not the costs of sorting out financial issues or issues affecting the children.) On average, the costs of the divorce are around £1270 including VAT and the court fee. Often costs are negotiated upon the basis that either:- 

  • the respondent agrees to pay a fixed portion of costs; or
  • the parties share the costs equally; or
  • the petitioner agrees to withdraw the costs application in the petition upon the basis that the divorce proceeds upon an undefended basis. 

The divorce process is a paper procedure. There is no need to attend court in relation to the divorce itself, unless costs are in dispute or the respondent defends the divorce. Only a tiny minority of cases are defended each year, due to the huge expense involved in disputing a divorce. From time to time, the respondent objects to funding the costs of the divorce incurred by the petitioner: that is why it is sensible to try to agree who bears the costs of the divorce and the extent of the costs to be claimed at the outset. 

If a respondent wishes to dispute the costs claimed by the petitioner, the respondent must give 14 days’ notice in writing to the court and to the petitioner ( or if represented to the petitioner’s solicitor) that the respondent intends to object to the application for costs. Upon receiving that notice, the court will make directions for the parties to attend court.

Objecting to paying the petitioner’s costs is not an effective way to prevent the divorce from being granted. If a respondent wishes to prevent the divorce from proceeding upon the basis of the petitioner’s petition, the respondent is required to return the acknowledgement of service to the court within 7 days of receiving the petition, indicating he/she intends to defend the divorce. 

21 days beginning with the day upon which the acknowledgement of service is required to be filed at court, the respondent must file an answer at court and also serve this upon the petitioner (or his or her solicitor if they are legally represented.) The court will then list the divorce for a case management hearing. Further evidence may be required from both parties to support their respective positions.

Defending divorce proceedings is expensive financially and emotionally. It causes delay and does not necessarily prevent the divorce from being granted. It increases hostility and causes emotional harm to the children and to the parties involved. 

At Myerson, our Family Law specialists understand that the divorce process is upsetting, and especially so for the respondent. Our solicitors are adept at providing you with support to enable you to focus on supporting your children and protecting your financial future. If you require advice you can contact one of our Family Law solicitors on 0161 941 4000 or email us at