When filing for divorce in the United Kingdom, how long does the process typically take?

How long does it take to get a divorce? The answer is dependent on a variety of factors, ranging from complicated assets to crowded courts. Here's what you can anticipate:

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A divorce in the United Kingdom will take at least six months.

This is because of two waiting periods in the divorce process

To begin, there is a 20-week 'cooling-off' period between filing for divorce and applying for the conditional order.

There is then a six-week wait between when the conditional order is granted and when you can apply for the final order.

In addition, there are several other factors that can influence the length of a divorce, ranging from complicated financial affairs to how busy the courts are.

As a general rule, getting divorced and reaching a financial settlement will take about a year.

The first step in the divorce process is to file your divorce petition with the court.

You must include the following information on your divorce petition:

  • Your complete name and address

  • Full name and address of your spouse

  • Your marriage certificate as proof

You can file the application as the sole applicant or as a joint applicant with your spouse.

If you file the application on your own, your spouse will be referred to as the respondent.

The filing fee for divorce is £593. If you file a joint application, you can split the cost with your spouse.

You can file for divorce online or by mail. When you apply online, your divorce application will usually be processed faster.  

What happens next is determined by whether you apply jointly with your spouse or on your own.

If you apply alone, your spouse will be sent an acknowledgement of service form, which must be returned within 14 days before you can proceed to the next stage.

If you apply jointly, the procedure differs slightly.

Instead, you will receive both a copy of the divorce application and an 'acknowledgement receipt.' You are not required to respond to this.

This means that a joint divorce application will most likely be processed faster than a sole application. However, it is still dependent on how busy the court is.

When you receive the acknowledgement receipt or the respondent returns the acknowledgement of service form, your application enters a 20-week 'cooling off' period.

The cooling-off period is intended to help you reflect on your divorce and encourage you to discuss financial and child-rearing issues with your spouse.

After the 20-week period has passed, you can proceed to the next stage of the divorce by requesting a conditional order.

The conditional order, along with the final order, is the first of two court orders that comprise the divorce process. They have taken the place of the old court orders, decree nis and decree absolute.

While they function in a similar manner, there are some differences. Importantly, if your divorce occurred before April 6, 2022, you will be subject to the previous divorce laws. As a result, you will need to apply for a decree nis and a decree absolute instead.

Read our guide: What Is a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute? for more information.

If your divorce began after April 6, 2022, you must file a conditional order.

The conditional order is a certificate from the court stating that the court sees no reason why you cannot divorce.

Only 20 weeks after the court has heard your divorce application can you file for a conditional order.

After 20 weeks, you can apply for a conditional order either online or by mail.

If the form is correctly completed, you and your spouse will receive a 'Certificate of Entitlement' informing you when the conditional order will be granted. It may take several weeks for this to arrive.

It's important to remember that even if you get the conditional order, you'll still be married. It simply confirms that you can divorce in theory.


You can apply for the final order six weeks and one day after receiving the conditional order.

This is the final stage of the divorce procedure, and it officially ends your marriage.

While the final order legally ends your marriage and frees you to marry, it does not end your financial obligations to your ex-partner. You must instead create a financial order to separate your financial obligations.

It is best to separate your finances before applying for the final order. Otherwise, your ex-spouse may sue your estate.

The most difficult aspect of a divorce is determining who gets what from the marital assets.

It is critical to remember that the financial settlement is handled separately from the divorce. So you could be legally divorced but still owe money to your ex-spouse.

The quickest way to get your finances in order is to plan ahead of time with your spouse how you will divide your assets. You can then make the agreement legally binding by requesting a financial order from the court.

This can take anywhere between six months and a year to complete.

The same principle that applies to the financial settlement also applies to making arrangements for your children.

If you have children, you must decide where they will live and how you will share parenting responsibilities with your spouse.

It is preferable if you can reach an agreement privately with your spouse.

Reaching a financial settlement and agreeing on child custody arrangements is usually what takes the longest in a divorce.

If you can make these decisions privately with your spouse, your divorce will move much more quickly.

If you can't reach an agreement, you'll have to rely on a judge to make a decision for you. This will cause your divorce to be delayed because you will have to wait for an available court date. If you want a faster divorce, you should try to reach an agreement privately.

Ideally, you should reach an agreement on the terms of your divorce before filing the divorce petition. This, however, is not always possible. And it can get even more difficult once divorce proceedings begin.

If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement, you can try mediation.

Mediation entails you and your spouse meeting with a trained, neutral'mediator' who assists you in working through the issues you need to resolve.

They will not direct your actions. Instead, they'll assist you in working together to find solutions that work for both of you. This keeps the process from dragging on for months and makes it as amicable as possible.

If you want to expedite your divorce, you should consult with a divorce solicitor.

A divorce lawyer will assist you in avoiding mistakes that could cause unnecessary delays, as well as dealing with any unexpected issues.

The Law Superstore allows you to compare divorce solicitors in your area for free.

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