How Long Does a Divorce Take In the UK?

The Family Lawyers at Gulbenkian Andonian often get asked the question, how long does a divorce take in the UK?

According to divorce statistics, 8.9 out of 1000 marriages in England and Wales end in divorce. A simple divorce without delays by the opposing party takes about six months from the issue of the divorce petition to the grant of ‘decree absolute‘ which terminates the marriage.

In between the petition for divorce and decree absolute, there is the ‘decree nisi’, which is a court order indicating to the parties that unless there is a reconciliation, the person who brought the divorce proceedings can apply to terminate it after a minimum wait of 6 weeks and one day from the grant of the decree nisi.

The divorce can be delayed by the denial of receiving the court papers.

The person receiving the divorce petition from the court may not want to divorce or may want a financial remedy from their partner and for any children of the Family.

Suppose the opposing party is just plain nasty or thinks that the marriage has not broken down irretrievably. In that case, it’s always possible for such an individual to delay the grant of decree absolute by denying they have received the divorce papers. This will force the party who petitioned for divorce to take optional measures at their disposal, like for example, asking a ‘process server’ to personally go to the address of the party concerned and hand over the divorce papers and then prepare a statement witnessed on oath before a solicitor as to how the divorce papers were handed over.

Sometimes the party who is to receive the divorce papers by hand may pretend not to be in at the address. In this case, the process server will need to confirm with a neighbour that the relevant individual lives there, for example, by showing a recent photograph of them. Once the identity is confirmed, the process server can simply place the papers through that party’s letterbox and state the steps taken as to service of the proceedings in their statement after posting the papers in this way.

I don’t want a divorce because the marriage has not broken down, or I disagree with the reasons for the divorce as these are true!

In the above scenario, the party opposing the reason for the divorce or thinking they can still make a go of the marriage can apply to defend the proceedings, which can be both costly and add to the delay, as both parties will have to give evidence to the court and a judge will have to make up their mind after hearing all the evidence.

Luckily the ‘no-fault divorce ’ provision already passed into law, is due to come into force sometime this Autumn (2021), and this will allow a party to obtain a divorce quicker as the other party will not be able to defend and argue that the reason for the breakdown was not their fault but the fault of their partner. 

I don’t agree to a divorce unless you sort out our finances!

A party can delay the final decree absolute by arguing that if the marriage is terminated, that party will suffer financially on pension rights. In this case, the court may delay the final decree pending the resolution of all financial proceedings.

Final points

It can be observed, therefore, that the road to decree absolute to terminate a marriage that has outlived its purpose can be either smooth or bumpy and indeed costly. Therefore it is always wise for both parties to think their differences through carefully on all matters, including finance and children, before deciding to take their differences to lawyers to try and sort out.

Any of the scenarios explained above can result in a final court order terminating the marriage to be delayed by two years, if not more. 

For expert advice from an experienced team of Family Lawyers, please do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your case. 

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    Neither Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors ltd, nor their employees, agents, consultants or assignees, accept any liability based on the contents of written articles which are meant for guidance only and not as legal advice. We advise all readers to take professional advice before acting. If you would like to consult with a professional lawyer or solicitor to discuss your case, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.