How long does it take to get a divorce?

Deciding to get a divorce can be one of the toughest decisions a couple can make. One of the most common questions about divorce is how long will it take? With regards to an uncontested divorce, which is almost always the quickest and less painful divorce, it can sometimes take up to 12 months to complete. This time frame can alter depending on who you use and it could take as little as 6 months or less, but many divorces do take up to a full year.

Phases of the Divorce Process

There are several key stages in a divorce – The Divorce Petition, The Decree Nisi, and The Decree Final. The length of time required for each stage will be influenced by the couple and how they work together to satisfy both parties.

The Divorce Petition

The first step is for the person applying for the divorce to complete the Divorce Petition papers. The applicant also needs to be clear about their reason for the divorce and provide ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage. Some common reasons include behaviour issues, adultery, and two years of separation. The divorce petitioner then sends the papers, the marriage certificate, and the fee to the local Divorce Centre. The other partner will then be informed and has the chance to contest the divorce or not. If both parties work together this stage of the process can be completed fairly quickly, if one person wishes to contest the divorce here then this can seriously affect the duration.

The Decree Nisi

The next step is applying for a Decree Nisi. The court will need to agree that the applicants are eligible for divorce, and if it does, then the date of a Decree Nisi announcement will be set and passed onto the two parties. If there are no disputes then there is generally no need for either party to physically be at court for this. A realistic time frame for a Decree Nisi is up to four months. If the court is unsatisfied with the divorce entitlement it will let both parties know and its reasons why. If these reasons can be sorted out then the Decree Nisi application can be resubmitted.

The decree absolute

The Decree Nisi can be likened to a provisional divorce. Six weeks after it has been pronounced then an application can be made for the decree to be finalised, or made absolute. A Decree Absolute can take up to a year from the initial divorce petition. All financial matters should be resolved before this application is made, and the couples wills will need to be reviewed as anything left for the spouse in the will be voided when the Decree Absolute is passed. This is the final step and once the Decree Absolute has been granted by the court then the marriage has come to an end and the divorce is complete.

Average Timescale for Divorce in the UK

While it can take up to 12 months for a divorce to be finalised the process often takes less time than that. Some divorces that are uncontested can take as little as four months in total. Contested divorces can take longer because they will usually require appearances in court which can add to the cost and the length of time needed to complete. Whether the divorce is likely to be contested or not, the best professional guidance you can get will help make the process as quick and painless as possible. As a historical comparison here are the average divorce times for the last few years.

  • 2014 – the average was 33 weeks
  • 2015 – the average was 30 weeks
  • 2016 – the average was 26 weeks
  • 2017 – the average was 22-24 weeks

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