Unless specified, this information relates only to England and Wales. If you live in Scotland, go to Parenting across Scotland for information and advice. If you live in Northern Ireland, go to NI direct.

There are 4 main steps involved with divorce proceedings.

  1. File a divorce petition – The first part of the divorce process is to file a divorce petition. This means applying to the court for permission to divorce and show reasons why you want the marriage to end. You will need to do this using a divorce petition form.
  2. Respond to a divorce petition- if you have been named in a divorce petition by your husband or wife, you will receive:
  • a copy of the divorce petition
  • a notice of proceedings form
  • an acknowledgment of service form.

As part of the divorce process you will need to respond by completing and returning the acknowledgment of service form.

  1. The next stage in divorce proceedings is to apply to the court for a ‘decree nisi’- this is a legal document which states that you are able to divorce. A ‘decree nisi’ can be applied for if your spouse agrees with your divorce petition OR if you have a court hearing and the judge decides to grant you a decree nisi.
  2. The final stage in the divorce process is to apply for a decree absolute – this legally ends your marriage, and can be applied for six weeks after you get the decree nisi.

You can find more information about the divorce process and the necessary forms including the divorce petition on Gov.uk’s guide to Getting a divorce.

Going to court should be the last resort to work out arrangements after separation.

Most people do not actually need to attend a court hearing in order to get a divorce. “DIY” or “Do it Yourself” divorces are quite common and many couples decide to go down this route.

If you need to work out child or financial arrangements with your ex-partner, you may not need to hire a lawyer. Often, it will be cheaper and quicker to work things out between you, to make an arrangement that suits you both, although you may want to ask a solicitor to put your agreement into a form that will be recognised by a court in future.

A solicitor may also be able to help you work things out between yourselves, in a process called ‘negotiation’. For more information about this, see ‘When do I need a solicitor?

Many separating or divorcing couples find that mediation helps them to reach agreement without going to court. Mediation can help you sort out things like:

  • Dividing money or possessions
  • Making arrangements for children

Before going to court to sort out child and financial arrangements, the law says you must consider mediation.

You may be eligible for legal aid for mediation for divorce or separation.

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