The divorce process in UK family law

7th March 2015 by


When a married person decides they wish to get divorced, the process can seem daunting, but, if the necessary steps in family law are followed correctly, obtaining a decree absolute can be fairly straightforward.

Of course, if spouses agree on most of the issues involved in splitting up, such as where children are going to live or fair division of family assets, then the process is likely to be easier and quicker, but even if there is dispute, getting a divorce does not have to be acrimonious or convoluted.

A spouse doesn’t have to consult a divorce solicitor to get a divorce, but for many couples the separate representation of lawyers enables them to ensure that their best interests are looked after at all times and expert legal advice can be invaluable at such a stressful time.

How the divorce process works

An uncontested divorce, where both parties agree on the major issues relating to children and division of possessions can take around four to six months. It will take longer if the parties need to negotiate the terms of a divorce settlement.

There are four steps in a formal divorce:

  1. The reasons for divorce – deciding the ground for divorce and proving to the court why you wish the marriage to end. To find out more about this please click here.
  2. Filing for divorce petition – one of the spouses has to apply to the family law court for a divorce. The person who fills out the ‘divorce petition’ is known as the petitioner. The person who then receives the petition is known as the respondent.
  3. Applying for a ‘decree nisi’ – once the ex-spouse, the respondent, has informed the court that they agree to the divorce, the petitioner can apply for a decree nisi. This is a document issued by the court which states that the court can see no reason in family law why your marriage could not be formally ended
  4. Obtaining a ‘decree absolute’ – once the decree nisi has been issued the petitioner can then apply for the document which formally ends the marriage, the decree absolute. The petitioner must wait for six weeks before making the application. If an application for decree absolute is not made by the petitioner, the spouse can also apply, but they must wait three months and six days after the date of the decree nisi being issued. The court will issue the decree document and this signals the end of the marriage and the former spouses are free to remarry.

Healys family law solicitors in London and Brighton for divorce legal advice and representation

Here at Healys we pride ourselves on our expertise in family law matters and our commitment to our clients. We have helped petitioners and respondents in divorce and can help clients claim financial relief or defend a financial claim.

To talk to our solicitors today why not call our Brighton office on 01273 685 888 or email an enquiry to

Alternatively the family law team in London can be reached on 020 7822 4000. We look forward to helping you.