Applying For a Divorce

If you wish to initiate divorce proceedings, you will first need to collect the relevant forms from the court, or from Her Majesty's Courts Service website at You can find out which forms you will need at either your local court or on the website, but staff will not be allowed to offer any legal advice or assistance with filling in the forms.

If you would like help with filling in the relevant forms, you should seek advice from a solicitor or from your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

What the court will do: If you both agree to the divorce (Undefended divorce)

The divorce court will look at the petition for divorce and grant a decree nisi in the event that the cited grounds for divorce are considered satisfactory.

Once you have been granted a decree nisi, you will have to wait at least six weeks before you can apply for a decree absolute and make your divorce final. This period of at least six weeks allow time for your partner to object to the divorce and to give their reasons for objection to he court. With an undefended divorce, no such objections are raised because both partners agree to the divorce.

An undefended divorce can take up to six months to finalise if there are no children or money issues involved. However, this period can be considerably lengthened if children are involved and the court is not satisfied with the arrangements that you and your partner are making for them. It is possible that the court will want to discuss childcare arrangements and meet the children if they are over nine years of age.

After the six week period, the Petitioner will be able to apply to the court for a decree absolute. This document finalises the divorce, leaving both parties free to re-marry or enter into a civil partnership. A decree absolute will be granted provided childcare arrangements have been approved by the court.

What the court will do: If one of you doesn't agree to the divorce (Defended divorce)

Once divorce proceedings have been initiated and solicitors engaged, the Respondent will have to fill in court papers called an Answer if they do not agree to the divorce. The Answer will state the Respondent’s reasons why they don't believe that the marriage has broken down.

It is possible that there will be a court hearing so that a judge can decide whether or not the marriage has irretrievably broken down and so resolve the dispute. However, a defended divorce will usually be resolved before a court hearing, so such hearings are very rare.

As with an undefended divorce, the will need to see that you and your partner have made satisfactory arrangements for any children. The arrangements for this are the same as detailed for an undefended divorce.

A decree nisi will be granted if the court agrees to grant the divorce. Six weeks later, the Petitioner can apply for a decree absolute, which leaves both parties free to re-marry or enter into a civil partnership. A decree absolute will be granted provided that the court is satisfied with any childcare arrangements.