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How long does the divorce process take?

Due to the reduction in the number of Family Courts in England & Wales in recent years, it can take at least 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.


Dealing with disputes throughout the divorce process

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 on 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.


Who bears the costs of the divorce?

The petitioner in an adultery or unreasonable behaviour petition is entitled to make an application for 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. 


What happens if divorce costs are disputed?

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.


Do you need to attend court during a divorce?

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. 


Defending divorce proceedings

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. 

The respondent must file an answer at court within 21 days, beginning with the day upon which the acknowledgement of service is required to be filed at court, and must 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. 


Any further questions?

If you would like to talk to us, in confidence about how we can help, get in touch with our Divorce Solicitors. Please call us on 0161 941 4000 or contact us online.

Meet Our Specialists

Home-grown or recruited from national, regional or City firms. Our specialists are experts in their fields and respected by their peers.

Jane Tenquist

Jane Tenquist

Jane is a Partner and Head of the Family Law Team

Nichola Bright

Nichola Bright

Nichola is a Senior Associate in our Family Law department

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah Whitelegge

Sarah is a Senior Associate in our Family Law department

Helen Royle

Helen Royle

Helen is a Trainee Solicitor in our Family department.

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