How long does a divorce take? Family Law

The length of time a divorce takes depends on whether the petition is contested or uncontested.

The person who initiates the divorce is the petitioner, and the other party is known as the respondent.

An uncontested divorce means that the respondent is not defending the petition and is in agreement to the divorce proceeding. In many cases, although the respondent may not fully agree with the reasoning for the divorce as set out by the petitioner, they choose not to defend the contents given that they agree that the marriage has broken down and they do not wish to remain married.

A contested divorce means that the divorce is being defended by the respondent.

How long does an uncontested divorce take?

An uncontested divorce is relatively quick. It usually takes around six to eight months from petition to decree absolute, however, timescales can vary depending on how long it takes for each party to complete the paperwork and how busy the courts are. Also, if there are financial matters outstanding, we would usually advise against applying for decree absolute until these matters have been resolved.

What is the process for an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce (one that is not defended) is usually quite a straightforward process. The petitioner sends a divorce petition to the court. A copy of this is then sent to the respondent along with an acknowledgement of service form. The respondent fills in this form and sends it back to the court.

Once the acknowledgement of service is received, the petitioner should apply for the decree nisi. If the court is satisfied that both legal and procedural requirements have been met, the decree nisi will be pronounced. This is a provisional decree of divorce. The petitioner must wait six weeks and one day after this pronouncement before making a final application for the decree absolute. The pronouncement of a decree absolute officially dissolves the marriage.

For civil partnerships, the process is the same, however, instead of a decree nisi, a conditional order is granted by the court followed by a final order, instead of a decree absolute.

In an uncontested divorce, there is no need for either party to attend court hearings unless there is any dispute surrounding costs. The whole process is carried out as a paper-based exercise, with all documents submitted to the court.

It is possible that, if the court is not satisfied that both legal and procedural requirements have been met, the petition can be rejected and the divorce refused at decree nisi stage.

How long does a contested divorce take?

A contested divorce is where the respondent intends to defend the divorce. When a petition is submitted, a copy of this is sent to the respondent who has seven days to respond. In their response, they must state whether they intend to defend the divorce or not.

If a respondent chooses to defend the petition, they are given 21 days to file an answer to say why they disagree with the divorce.

Both the petitioner and the respondent will be required to attend court to give evidence, where a judge will make the final decision on whether the divorce is granted.

As you might imagine, a contested divorce will take considerably longer than an uncontested divorce. On average, a defended divorce may take six to nine months, but this depends on the complexity of the case and any court delays. Defending a divorce is a costly process.

Help and advice from Beswicks Legal

If you are looking to start divorce proceedings or require expert advice about a relationship breakdown, our family law solicitors can help. At Beswicks we can support you to take the next appropriate steps towards beginning a new chapter of your life. To arrange a one-hour consultation with a member of our team, please contact us today.