How Long Do You Have to Be Separated Before Divorce Is Automatic UK

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When it comes to getting a divorce in the UK, there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation. Many people think that if they’ve been separated for a long time, their divorce will happen automatically. But that’s not the case. You must go through specific legal steps to terminate a marriage, no matter how long you’ve been separated.

This blog post aims to clarify the divorce process in the UK. We’ll explain how divorce works, including the recent changes that have made it more straightforward, such as the introduction of no-fault divorce. 

There is No Automatic Divorce in the UK

In the UK, there is no such thing as an automatic divorce, regardless of how long couples have been separated.

Previously, before the introduction of no-fault divorce, lengthy separations could be cited as a reason for divorce under the grounds of desertion or two to five years of separation, depending on whether both parties consented. However, this still required one party to start divorce proceedings.

The current law, with the introduction of no-fault divorce, simplifies matters by allowing couples to end their marriage without assigning blame. However, it still requires both parties to actively engage in the legal process. Talking to divorce lawyers UK can simplify the process. 

The legal process includes filing specific forms and, if necessary, attending court hearings. This structured approach ensures that all issues, such as financial settlements and arrangements for children, are properly addressed, maintaining fairness and legality throughout the dissolution of the marriage.

Understanding the No-Fault Divorce

The no-fault divorce is a substantial reform in UK family law under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which took effect in April 2022. The act was the first major update to divorce laws since 1973, aiming to create a more straightforward and less confrontational path for couples wishing to dissolve their marriage.

With no-fault divorce, couples no longer need to prove fault or assign blame to establish the irretrievable breakdown of their marriage. Previously, individuals had to rely on one of five reasons to justify a divorce, which often led to increased conflict and made the process more stressful.

The new law allows a statement of irretrievable breakdown as sufficient grounds for divorce, simplifying the process significantly.

Moreover, the act facilitates a more collaborative approach by allowing couples to jointly file for divorce, reflecting a shift towards recognising divorce as a mutual decision rather than a conflict-driven process.

It also introduces a mandatory reflection period of at least 20 weeks from the start of the divorce process to when a Conditional Order can be issued, providing couples with time to consider their decision.

What’s the Usual Procedure for Getting Divorced?

The initial step in the UK divorce process involves filing a divorce application, which can be done jointly or by one spouse. This application is submitted to your local family court and must clearly state that the marriage has broken down. 

If one spouse applies, the other (the respondent) will be notified and must reply within 14 days through an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form. This form is crucial as it confirms that the respondent has received the divorce application and knows its contents.

Suggested reading: What Is a Finacial Order in Divorce UK

Following the filing and acknowledgement of the divorce application, there is a mandated 20-week cooling-off period. This period provides both parties enough time to reflect on their decision and discuss any necessary arrangements or settlements.

After this period, if both parties are still committed to the divorce, they can apply for a Conditional Order from the court, which confirms there are no legal impediments to the divorce.

Once a Conditional Order has been issued, another waiting duration is at least six weeks. After this period, the parties can apply for a Final Order, the last step in legally ending the marriage. The marriage is officially and legally dissolved when the Final Order is granted.

When Can I Start the Divorce Proceeding?

You can apply for a divorce after being married for at least one year. This rule ensures that both parties have had adequate time to consider their relationship’s future before taking legal steps towards dissolution. The union must be legally recognised in the UK, and at least one spouse must consider the UK their permanent home.

Also read: How Are Pensions Split in a Divorce in the UK?

Under the reformed guidelines, an applicant must only declare that the wedding has irretrievably broken down without proving specific faults or laying blame. This significant change aims to reduce the adversarial nature of divorce proceedings, lessen conflict, and make the process more straightforward and respectful for both parties. 

Let Our Family Solicitors Help You

Divorce can be an emotionally and legally challenging journey, but you don’t have to do it alone. At Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors, our family law experts are here to provide you with comprehensive legal advice and expert guidance. 

Whether you need assistance filing your divorce application, negotiating financial settlements, or making arrangements for children, our team is equipped to handle every aspect of your divorce process.

Our solicitors combine sensitivity with legal prowess to safeguard your welfare and accomplish the best possible outcomes. Get in touch today, and let our experienced professionals help you through every step of your divorce, ensuring your rights are upheld, and your peace of mind is maintained.


No, there is no provision in UK law for an “automatic divorce” after any period of separation. While being separated for a certain duration (two or five years) can be grounds for a divorce, you must still formally submit a divorce application to initiate the process.

The introduction of no-fault divorce proceedings in England and Wales means that couples can now apply for a divorce without needing to prove fault or blame on the part of one spouse. This change aims to reduce conflict and simplify the process, allowing a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down as the sole requirement for obtaining a divorce.

A family law solicitor can guide you through the complexities of the divorce process, from submitting your divorce application to finalising the financial settlements and child custody arrangements. They can help you to achieve a fair outcome that respects the needs of all involved parties.

When you submit your application for the final order to the Court, they usually process and pronounce it on the same day. However, it typically takes about 2-3 weeks to receive the official document that legally ends your marriage.

Ask our Expert Legal Team

At Gulbenkian Andonian, we pride ourselves on “Excellence, Experience and Efficiency”. With over 35 years of experience on your side, our team of London based lawyers and solicitors have a wealth of experience advising individuals, families and businesses of all sizes to find clarity on UK law.

Call us on +44 (0) 207 269 9590 or fill out the form below. We usually reply within a few hours.

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