How Long Does a Divorce Take in the UK? Length of Divorce Process From Start to Finish

Originally published on 28th September 2018 at 10:20 AM

Reading time: 2 mins

I’m frequently asked the question, how long does it take to get a divorce? The simple answer is many months. I imagine if you’re the instigator of the divorce this isn’t what you want to hear.

If you’ve moved on or even booked the ‘next’ wedding as one of our customers last week had, then the court process is slow and frustrating.

In this blog, I set out the divorce process and , the typical time it takes to divorce in the UK and some tips for speeding your divorce up.

Need some more personalised advice?

How long does a divorce take from start to finish?

On average, it takes four to six months for a divorce or dissolution to be finalised through the courts in England and Wales. Some companies advertise fast-track services that promise you can get a divorce in 12 weeks.

The reality is a divorce in the UK takes a long time. There are no "divorce quick schemes".

If you are going to get a consent order (your financial settlement) at the same time as divorcing, the average time it takes to get a divorce and finalise your financial split extends to six - twelve months.

So, how long does it take to divorce? If you're lucky and everything goes smoothly, four months. This timeline will extend depending on the complexity of your divorce.

You can have a look at our divorce timeline. It’s a quick questionnaire and we'll send a rough estimate of how long your divorce take may take.

See our blog on what is a consent order for more information on this part of the process.

Has coronavirus slowed down the divorce process?

The reality is when the country was in full lockdown, the courts were operating with a reduced team so the processing of divorce documents took longer.

However, this delay was temporary and the courts are now dealing with divorce petitions as normal.

You need to be married 12 months

The minimum length of time you must be married for before you can get divorced is one year.

If you’ve been married for under a year, you can have your divorce petition drafted and ready to send, but you cannot submit it until a year after your marriage date.

The other option is to annul your marriage, however this is hard to do. Find out more about how to annul your marriage via the government website here.

How to speed up your divorce

Getting a divorce takes time and the process of obtaining your decree absolute (the certificate that makes your divorce legal) takes longer than people expect.

However, there are a few ways that you can do to make the divorce process run smoothly and quickly.

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.

Step one: Prepare emotionally

The most noteworthy point to start with is to take time to emotionally prepare as this is the biggest predictor of how long it takes to get divorced.

Prepared couples divorce more quickly and more amicably.

If you are not starting the divorce, you’ll probably need time to adjust to the end of the marriage.

Getting control of your emotions before starting divorce proceedings and adopting a business-like approach will help speed up negotiations. Rushing will make the divorce take longer, so why not watch our short video on emotional preparation here.

If you want to file the divorce petition, don’t rush your partner, instead, take time to invest in the emotional preparation stage. Getting a divorce is a big life change, our advice is to allow them time to get used to fact that the marriage is over and get advice and coaching if needed.

The below chart demonstrates the typical stages someone may go through during the divorce process.

Step two: Agreeing your children and financial arrangements

This is usually the bit that takes most time. If you’ve already agreed things you can move on to getting your divorced processed through the court.

If not, you’ll need to make a list of your finances and agree what’s going to happen to your assets in the future.

You’ll also need to agree where the children will live and how you’ll take care of them. This can be tough and consequently many people seek help from our divorce coaches.

You can start the divorce process before you’ve finalised your arrangements and so use the time it takes the court to process your divorce to negotiate a settlement.

Step three: Filing your divorce petition (approx. 6 weeks)

First of all, you’ll need to fill in and file your divorce petition with the court. You will need to choose one of the five reasons that the government currently allow to prove that the marriage has broken down past the point of return.

The grounds for divorce you can use are 2 years separation, 5 years separation, adultery, desertion or behaviour.

You will also need a copy of your marriage certificate to start the application along with an address for your ex. For advice on starting the divorce process, click here.

Although 2 years separation is known as the most amicable reason to use in the divorce petition, it means slowing down and waiting for that time to pass for some couples.

So, if speed is important to you, look into one of the other reasons that will allow you to file for the divorce sooner (this is usually behaviour).

For tips on remaining amicable if you're using unreasonable behaviour, click here. There may also be financial and tax implications to delaying divorce proceedings.

The court will send a copy of the divorce petition to your (ex)-partner. Your ex then completes and returns the Acknowledgement of Service form and the court sends you a case number.

Tip 1. Encourage your partner to return the Acknowledgement of Service form rather than wait. If they don’t, the divorce will progress after 21 days so more slowly.

Step four: Applying for your Decree Nisi (approx. 8 weeks)

A judge will consider whether the marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’ and if you can get a divorce or not.

If a judge is satisfied that it has, your Decree Nisi will be pronounced a few weeks later and you’ll both receive a Decree Nisi certificate from the court.

You will then have to wait six weeks and one day after your decree nisi pronouncement date in order to proceed with the next stage of the divorce.

Tip 2. Apply immediately after the 21 days have passed if your ex hasn't returned the acknowledgement of service form.

In addition to applying for your decree nisi, you can choose to file a consent order with your divorce paperwork.

A Consent Order makes your agreements legally binding and it is therefore the only way of having a clean break between you and so stopping future claims. (Did you know that you are still technically financially tied to each other financially even if your divorce is official until you have completed the consent order process thorugh the court?).

Tip 3. Have a Consent Order as it provides peace of mind that you have finalised your arrangements. Avoid any nasty surprises in future.

Step six: Applying for Decree Absolute (6 weeks and one day after your Decree Nisi is received)

Six weeks and one day after your Decree Nisi is pronounced you can apply for a Decree Absolute. This is the final piece of paperwork in the divorce process.

Tip 4. It's often safer and 'tidier' to get your consent order sealed by the courts before filing for your decree absolute.

Step seven: Your divorce is finalised (approx. 2 weeks)

Finally, you and your ex-partner will receive the Decree Absolute certificate (usually takes two to three weeksto arrive once you have applied for the Decree Absolute). Your divorce is now official and the process is finalised. 

For a more bespoke estimate of how long your divorce may take. You only need to answer a few simple questions and to provide your email address so we can send you your divorce timeline straight into your inbox.

If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.

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Hannah Hodgkinson
Hannah Hodgkinson
Hannah Hodgkinson is Head of Marketing at amicable. Hannah has over six years experience working for global NGOs and private consultancies and has a passion for marketing for companies with a social purpose

Comments (28)

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12.05.2017 15:10

My parter isn’t contesting his divorce had to say if he was say either way before the 10th of march and he’s still waiting for his divorce. Who am we. Contact

Kate Daly

12.05.2017 15:10

We offer free telephone help so please call one of our divorces on 07710 595 422 and they will be able to talk through your situation


07.10.2017 6:45

You say it takes 2weeks at step 7, but how long can you expect to wait for the courts to process the decree absolute? Amicable divorce with a separation agreement and consent order.

Kate Daly

07.10.2017 6:45

Hi Jay, all courts are different but our experience across England is that it’s usually 2-3 weeks.

Miss Mehi

17.01.2018 17:56

How long does it take to hear from the court. When an application to dispense with service is made to court

Hannah Hodgkinson

17.01.2018 17:56

Hi there Miss Mehi, it usually takes around two to three weeks. Please let us know if you have any other questions.


06.02.2018 11:14

Once the acknowledgement of service has been returned, how long do I have before I can no longer apply for a decree nisi?

Hannah Hodgkinson

06.02.2018 11:14

Hi Chris – you will always be able to apply for the Decree Nisi once the acknowledgment of service has been received with the court, unless you formally withdraw the application. I hope this is helpful, please call us on 0203 004 4695 if you have any other questions.

Hayley Snowden

18.03.2018 22:11

Got my date for my decree nisi to be granted in court,my x had agreed to the divorce originally can he change his mind at this stage or am i safe??

Kate Daly

18.03.2018 22:11

Hi Hayley – thanks for getting in touch. Once you have your Decree Nisi the judge has given you permission to get divorced. However, you are not actually divorced until you have the final piece of paper, the Decree Absolute (which you can apply for in six weeks and one day from the date of your Nisi). To be ‘safe’ you will need to wait for the absolute… The risk of anything going wrong is low at this stage but not absent.

Lynne Armitage

21.04.2018 16:19

At what point will the court confirm that HWF has been recognised and advise of any charges

Hannah Hodgkinson

21.04.2018 16:19

Hi Lynne – on average it takes the courts around 10 days to process divorce petitions, however, be warned, different courts have different processing times so this can be a lot longer! Once the court processes your divorce papers they will let you know by letter if you have to pay anything.

Emmanuel Solomon-Ogbaro

28.06.2018 16:11

Hello, Am going currently through an amicable divorce process between me and ex…we had both agreed to go our seperate ways and move on with our lives, after living apart for up to 5years, with the support of our two grown up children. Our decree nisi has gone through, we are waiting to apply for decree absolute soon. My question is how long do we have to wait before the decree absolute is issue after our application? Your advice will be very helpful. Thanks.

Kate Daly

28.06.2018 16:11

Hi, thanks for getting in touch… You have to wait 6 weeks and 1 day from the pronouncement date of the Decree Nisi before you can apply for the Decree Absolute. If you have finances to sort out, then its best to wait until you have a sealed consent order that sets out what’s happening to money and property before applying for the Decree Absolute.


20.07.2018 12:39

email [email protected] and be happy over your relationship

Hannah Hodgkinson

20.07.2018 12:39

Hi Katherine, thanks for your comment, is there something we can help you with?


22.12.2018 21:51

I have been seperate from my wife for 3.5 months in Australia. Can I apply for a divorce now? How long would it take for completion?


08.01.2019 16:00

I am waiting for my Decree Nisi. We have been separate more than 2 years. is there any possible to speed the process to get Decree absolute?


10.01.2019 14:28

Do I have to wait for the Decree Nisi before I can apply for a consent order?

Ingrida Zvikaite

13.03.2019 12:27

Hi We not living with my husband about 15 years. How long is takes to divorce Thank you


21.03.2019 21:36

Hi I submitted a decree Nici how long will I wait for the Decree absolute to be released


20.04.2019 17:11

I split from my husband in November 2017. I am aware that we have to be separated for two years before we can get a divorce. I was wondering if I can apply and get the process started now (after 1 and a bit years) and have it all finalised by the time we have been separated 2 years. Or wether I can only start the process and apply after the 2 year separation has passed?

Waqqas Ahmed

23.04.2019 23:16

Hi,what is your advice if we both are agree to divorce who should apply to have a discount on court fee me(working) or my wife (have limited capability for work) (not working ) We have joint UC account with more than 6k annual earnings. Thanks

Mandi Walker

22.10.2019 13:28

Hi if you have been delegated for over 3 years both wang the divorce how long from applying does it take


16.12.2019 2:44

Since you only been married a year you can get a divorce with no arguing no financial disagreements and what's the cost


27.01.2020 15:02

Hi madam i just marry following traditional on 1st dec 19 but legal marriage on 18th Aug 19 After 1 month in marriage me and my wife got misunderstand and I decide to get divorce buy my wife won't divorce I completely hate her now Is that I can apply divorce in 1 year


27.01.2020 21:33

What is the expected time to get the paperwork AFTER your divorce?


28.03.2020 7:01

Hi,I’m Karima I open a divorce case and I finished all paper work and my appointment is in July, me and my ex husband we no have nothing no kids no property so my question is that court will finish my case in one appointment or no .