Step-by-step guide to divorce

The majority of divorces in the UK are undefended. This means that the person being divorced (the Respondent) has agreed to the divorce going ahead. If the Respondent disagrees with the Applicant’s divorce submission, there is a slightly different process to completion.

A guide to divorce (Undefended)

Step 1 – Preparing and filing a divorce application

From the 6th April 2022 the only ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship, supported by a statement but no allegations of fault or further evidence are required. The Application is sent to the Court along with the marriage certificate and Court fee.

Step 2 – Service of the Application

An application can be issued by one of the parties or can be issued jointly. An Application is served by the court or by the parties within 28 days.

Step 3 – Acknowledgement of Service of the Application

The Respondent is required to return the Acknowledgement of Service form within 14 days to confirm receipt. They must also indicate whether they wish to dispute the proceedings and whether they are prepared to pay the divorce costs. If they intend to dispute the proceedings they have a further 21 days to file an answer.

Respondent’s failure to return form

The Court needs proof in order to continue. If the Respondent fails to return a completed form, it will be necessary to make other arrangements. This is usually done through personal service of the papers i.e. arranging for either the Court Bailiff or a Process Server to hand a further set of papers to the Respondent.

The person who effects service will provide a Statement of Service to the Court confirming they have done so, and the Court will treat the papers as served.

Failure by the Respondent to file the Acknowledgement of Service will inevitably result in some additional delay and costs.

Step 4 – Applying for Conditional Order

One or both parties can make an application for the Conditional Order, provided there is a minimum of 20 weeks since issue, service has been successful and the timescale for filing the acknowledgement of service has expired.

Step 5 – Pronouncement of Conditional Order

It is not usually necessary for the parties to attend Court when the Conditional Order is pronounced, although this may be required if there is a dispute about costs.

Step 6 – Application for Final Order

One or both parties can apply for the Final Order provided that a minimum of 6 weeks and 1 day has elapsed from the date of the Conditional Order. Only when the Final Order has been issued is the divorce finalised.

Parties sometimes prefer to defer applying for the Final Order if financial aspects of the divorce have not been resolved, and will await an outcome on finances before finalising the divorce.

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