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I want to get divorced. What now?

The decision to divorce is never easy. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, whatever your circumstances. Being in a relationship can feel like a comfort blanket, and separation can leave you with a cold sense of loss. You might be scared about starting again on your own, or excited, or both. If you have children you’ll be worried about the impact on their wellbeing, and you may also be worried about child and financial arrangements.

If you’ve just made this difficult choice, then you’re not alone. Every January divorce lawyers around the country see a spike in enquiries. This is probably because, if a marriage is already on shaky ground, spending an intense amount of time together over the holiday, perhaps with the added stress of a crowded home, brings problems to the fore. There’s also the mentality of ‘New Year, new me!’

I’ve decided I want a divorce – how do I tell my spouse?

You need to sit down and have an honest but tactful conversation with your spouse in a firm, gentle manner. If you have children you will remain in each other’s lives forever, so you need to pause and consider how you would like to pave the way moving forward. Divorce doesn’t have to be acrimonious. It is possible, down the line, to have a friendly relationship with your ex-partner if you don’t allow anger and bitterness to overwhelm you.

Choose your moment for the conversation carefully. Don’t pick a time when your spouse is stressed after a difficult day at work, for example. Break the news in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Definitely don’t say you would like a divorce with your children in the next room. Consider the words you will use. Avoid blaming phrases such as, ‘You should have’ or ‘You never’ and communicate your wishes unambiguously so you don’t leave your spouse with the faint hope that your marriage can be saved.

Even though you are the person who is broaching divorce, the chances are that your spouse is not happy in the marriage either. It is a good idea to try to come to a mutually agreed decision about it by opening the conversation with something like, “I haven’t been happy in the marriage for a long time, and I don’t think you’ve been happy either”.[1] If your spouse acknowledges unhappiness too it makes the conversation less one-sided.

Your initial conversation is not the time to enter into details about financial arrangements or child arrangements. You need to give your spouse the time and space for the news to sink in – especially if it is likely to come as a shock. When the dust has settled you can work together to organise child arrangements and financial and practical details that are in the best interests of everybody.

How long does it take to get a divorce?

It usually takes between 6 and 12 months, depending upon your circumstances. If both you and your spouse agree to the divorce and there are no children to consider or finances and property to share, then it’s a much faster process. You can only divorce if you can prove ‘irretrievable breakdown’ citing one of the following reasons:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years’ separation (if both of you consent to the divorce).
  • Five years’ separation (if your spouse does not consent to the divorce)

A Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was put before parliament in June 2019 but was automatically dropped in September when parliament was prorogued. The Queen’s speech brought ‘no fault’ divorce back onto the agenda, with the aim of the bill to result in less acrimonious separation. Until the bill is passed into law, divorcing couples must still rely upon one of the above five grounds to prove an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.

Here are the steps to getting an uncontested divorce:

  1. As the person applying for the divorce (the Divorce Petitioner), you fill in paperwork for the Divorce Petition. These papers need to be delivered to the Divorce Centre of your local court and a court fee paid. You will need to provide the Court with three copies.
  2. The court sends a copy of the divorce petition along with an Acknowledgement of Service form to your spouse. Your spouse has 8 days to fill it in and send it back. The Acknowledgement of Service asks them if they agree with the divorce or not (that is, whether they plan to defend it or not). If they want to file a defence, they must do so within 29 days (longer if they live abroad). In practice, it’s unusual for somebody to file a defence as most people accept that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.
  3. Once the court receives the Acknowledgement of Service with confirmation that the divorce will not be defended, they will send you a copy. You will then need to apply for a Decree Nisi by filling out a form. A Decree Nisi is a court order confirming that the court doesn’t see why you cannot divorce. Along with the Decree Nisi application you will need to fill in a Statement of Support which simply confirms that there have been no changes in circumstances since you applied for the Divorce Petition.
  4. The judge considers your divorce application and sets a date for the Decree Nisi pronouncement.
  5. The Decree Nisi is pronounced in court. You and your spouse do not need to be present in court for this.
  6. You and your spouse will then receive a Certificate of Entitlement from the court confirming that your marriage has irretrievably broken down as a result of one of the reasons you cited in the Divorce Petition.
  7. You apply for the Decree Absolute (the final divorce decree) by submitting a Notice of Application to the court. You can only do so 6 weeks and 1 day after the Decree Nisi was pronounced to allow for a ‘cooling off’ period. The Decree Absolute officially ends your marriage.

What if my spouse decides to defend the divorce?

In the unlikely event that your spouse defends (or ‘contests’) the divorce then it will take longer and be more costly, especially if you have to go to court. One option to avoid court is to arrange mediation with your solicitor. A trained mediator can help you both to reach an agreement.

What about child arrangements and financial arrangements?

A divorce ends your marriage, but it doesn’t set out child arrangements or financial arrangements. Both matters are usually considered alongside your divorce proceedings, but it is not essential that these are resolved before you receive your Decree Absolute. Your solicitor will advise you on the best approach for your particular circumstances.

How QualitySolicitors Hopleys GMA can help you

We understand that separation is distressing and our family law solicitors will support you with sensitivity. Divorce can be unpredictable – no two cases are the same – and there is a lot at stake, whether it’s access to your children or protection of your finances.

Whatever the circumstances of your divorce, our specialists will help you to protect your interests and achieve the fairest outcome for everybody. Talk to us today at our Wrexham 01978 291 322 or Mold 01352 753 882 offices for a Free Initial Assessment.


[1] Fatherly, How to tell your wife you want a divorce,

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