We understand that going through a Divorce and the processes isn’t easy.

It can be difficult dealing with the unexpected breakdown of the relationship whilst also trying to navigate around the confusing legal terms and formalities.

By seeking legal advice in the early stages, you may help minimise conflict, avoid costly court proceedings and resolve matters in less time and hassle.

If you and your partner are considering separation or divorce, our family law team in Chelmsford can offer you practical advice and help you make sense of the process.

We will help you consider whether a separation or a divorce would be in your best interests. You may decide that you do not wish to take immediate steps to end your marriage or relationship however we can also provide you with information about your legal rights and options moving forward. If you should decide to divorce, we can help you draft the relevant documents and guide you through the process, step by step.

Establishing grounds for divorce

The only ground for divorce in England and Wales is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To satisfy this, you’ll need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown to confirm that the relationship has disintegrated. Following the introduction of no-fault divorce, it is no longer necessary to provide a reason for the breakdown of your marriage.

Initiating a divorce

There is a two stage process to a divorce. To commence a divorce, you must individually, or jointly with your partner, prepare a divorce application. We can draft the application on your behalf and take you through the process of obtaining a Conditional Order, which is the first stage, and help you obtain the Final Order, which is the final stage of the divorce process.

Obtaining a divorce

After a minimum of 20 weeks from submitting the divorce application, you can apply for a Conditional Order. This cooling-off period has been introduced to give the divorcing couple time to properly consider the decision they have made, and to give them the time to organising their affairs. For example, making decisions regarding any children involved.

The receipt of the Conditional Order means that you are entitled to a divorce. You then have to wait an additional six weeks and a day before applying for a Final Order. Once you receive the Final Order, you are officially divorced and free to remarry if you wish.

You will need to discuss with your solicitor whether any action is required in respect of children or financial matters as these are not dealt with as part of the divorce proceedings.

Other considerations

Unfortunately, divorce isn’t just about dissolving your relationship. There are other factors you will need to take into consideration and which we are also able to assist you with:

  • Financial issues, including property, maintenance payments and pensions.
  • Children and the arrangements for their care.
  • The family home.
  • Family assets.
  • Wills, trusts and tax planning.

Divorce FAQs

In this section, you will find some of the often asked questions regarding divorce related issues. If you have a query that is not covered below, please do not hesitate to contact us.

What are the grounds for divorce?
Within the laws that govern England and Wales, there is only one ground for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Whilst there was previously a requirement to blame one spouse for this on the basis of one or more facts, following the introduction of no-fault divorce on 6th April 2022, this is no longer needed. A simple statement to confirm that the marriage has irretrievable broken down is suffice.
How long do I need to have been married in order to divorce?
You must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least 12 months before filing a petition for divorce.
Do we have to go to court in person to get divorced?
If you and your spouse both agree to get divorced and can reach a reasonable agreement between yourselves on finances and looking after any dependent children, you should be able to get divorced without going to court in person.
How long does the process take and what's involved?
Following the introduction of No-Fault divorce, it will take a minimum of 26 weeks for a divorce to be finalised by the courts. Ultimately, however, this depends on the circumstances and the degree of cooperation between the parties involved. The divorce process can involve up to three separate elements:

  • The divorce itself – i.e. the ending of the marriage.
  • Agreement on the financial arrangements, such as how the assets will be divided and whether any maintenance will be payable.
  • Agreement on the arrangements for looking after any dependent children.

At the first meeting, your solicitor is required by a code called the Family Law Protocol to consider a number of issues and may need to discuss some of them with you. These issues include the prospects of reconciliation, possible referral to a family mediator, children issues, whether there is a need to limit access to joint bank accounts and credit cards, the need to register rights of occupation of the family home at the Land Registry, and much more.

The process of divorce itself starts when a divorce petition is filed with the court. This petition can be filed as a sole application or a joint application. In a sole application, the applicant’s solicitor normally completes the required documents.

In the case of a joint application, the court will send notice of the issued petition to both parties and they must acknowledge receipt of this.

With a sole application, the respondent spouse must file an acknowledgement of service (a document asking the respondent to acknowledge receipt of notice that the applicant wishes to divorce) within 14 days of service. If they intend to dispute the proceedings, they must file notice of this within 21 days, following the initial 14 days. Although a spouse will no longer be able to defend a divorce, they can still dispute the proceedings on restricted legislative grounds such as whether the court in England and Wales has jurisdiction over the marriage, the validity of the marriage or if the marriage has already been legally ended.

The applicant(s) must then wait a minimum of 20 weeks before confirming that they wish to proceed with the divorce. These 20 weeks of meaningful reflection can be used by the parties to co-operate amicably in getting their affairs in order and planning for the future.

Following this, the court will make a Conditional Order (previously known as a Decree Nisi).

After a minimum of 6 weeks, the courts can make a Final Order (previously known as a Decree Absolute). This signifies the official dissolution of the marriage.

We would, however, always advise that parties reach a financial settlement before applying for a Final Order, so as to not limit the finances available in a settlement (such as pensions). As such, the length of time it takes to reach a financial settlement will ultimately delay the divorce being finalised.

What is mediation and do we have to do it?
Mediation is the process of assisting two individuals who are involved in a family breakdown to communicate more effectively with each other, allowing them to make informed and agreed on decisions regarding issues arising out of their relationship breakdown. You are not legally required to try mediation but a skilled mediator can help you to work together to reach an agreement that you both feel is fair. This may provide a less confrontational approach than communicating through your solicitors from the outset and can help to reduce your costs.
Who do I have to notify that I am divorced and what documents will they want to see?
You need to notify anyone who needs to know about your marital status. For example:

You should notify your employer, particularly if you have any health benefits, pension scheme or other employment related benefits which may be affected.

If you are receiving benefits, you should notify the Department for Work and Pensions. (In fact, you may need to notify them earlier if you separate, as this can affect some benefits).

If you have joint arrangements, such as joint bank accounts or memberships, you should inform the organisation concerned.

You should conduct a financial audit to ensure any insurance policies or any other policies have the correct beneficiaries.

You should consider making an up to date Will if you have not already done so.

A copy of the Final Order (previously known as a Decree Absolute), or in some cases the original certificate, is generally all the documentary evidence that you need to provide.

When can I apply for a divorce?

There is a bar on applying for a divorce within the first year of the marriage. After one year has passed then you can make an application for a divorce.

Do I have to provide grounds to apply for a divorce?

No. The law changed in 2022 and grounds are no longer required to get divorced.  The new laws are referred to as the “No-fault divorce”. 

All that you must declare is that the marriage is irretrievably broken down.

Can we apply for a divorce together?

It is now possible to make a joint application for a divorce as well as sole one.

If the application is made on a sole basis, the other party will need to confirm receipt of the application and send back an “acknowledgement of service” within 14 days.

Can the other party contest the divorce?

The change in the law in 2022 made it impossible to contest a divorce.

How do I apply for a divorce?

You can apply for a divorce yourself on the gov.uk website or with the help of a solicitor through the divorce portal.

We provide a fixed fee in relation to divorce applications. We aim to take the stress out of the process by ensuring all deadlines are met and documentation is correctly filed with the court in a timely manner.

What happens after I apply for a divorce?

After the application has been acknowledged by the other party there is a 20 week “cooling off” period before the Conditional Order can be applied for. This time aims to prevent people divorcing in haste.

People often use this time to try and agree the financial settlement of their divorce.

What is the decree nisi?

The decree nisi is what the conditional order was previously called. You may hear people use the term decree nisi if they divorced prior to the recent change of the law.

Am I divorced once the conditional order is granted?

No. The granting of the Conditional Order does not mean that you are divorced. It simply marks a stage of the legal process.

After the Conditional Order has been granted it becomes possible for the Financial Order related to the divorce to be made. This may be made through agreement or through a court application.

Can I change my mind?

After the Conditional Order has been granted it is still possible to change you minds and continue with your marriage.

The divorce is only finalised once the Final Order of the Divorce is made.

When is the Final Order granted?

The Final Order can be applied for 6 weeks after the Conditional Order has been granted. Once the Final Order is granted this marks the end of the marriage. At this point it is not possible to change your minds.

The Final Order used to be called the Decree Absolute.

Do we sort out our finances using the same application?

No, this is a separate process.

We always advise people who are getting divorced to formalise the financial settlement of the divorce through the court. This provides protection against future claims.

We advise that the Final Order of your divorce is not applied for until the Financial Order has been granted.

We offer expert advice as to the law in this area and can provide you with an indication of what would represent a fair and reasonable split of your assets. We will aim to help you negotiate a settlement outside of court but, if it becomes necessary, we can carefully guide you through the court process.

Do we have to formalise our arrangements surrounding the children?

You do not have to formalise the care of your children through the court. Many people can arrange this between themselves successfully.

If you are unable to reach an agreement or wish for the agreement you have made to be formalised by the court then we can assist you in doing this. Our experienced solicitors will explain what to expect at each step of the process.

Get in touch

Speak to one of our expert divorce solicitors now – call 01245 228106 or email family@gepp.co.uk.

Or complete the enquiry form below:

Please note, we do not accept legal aid for family matters.