How long does a divorce take?

Planning for a divorce is a stressful period in anyone’s life. Not only do you need to deal with the emotional turmoil of the relationship ending, but there are also a number of financial and legal considerations to take into account. While it’s never easy, being aware of the facts and seeking financial advice from the beginning can help to smooth things along so that you’re prepared for this new stage of life.

One of the biggest questions that people have at the end of a marriage is: “how long does a divorce take?” Naturally, most people want to get things over and done with as quickly as possible, but there are a number of steps to go through, and this means that divorce proceedings can vary in length. The quickest a divorce or dissolution takes is six months to complete, while the average is eight to twelve months, with a further four months to be added if a pension sharing order is involved. Here we look to break down the timeline of divorce proceedings so that you know what to expect...

What to know about getting a divorce

Before getting into the specifics of the divorce process to understand why it takes as long as it does, it’s important to understand the basics of divorce law. Whether you’re in a marriage or civil partnership (which ends in a dissolution), the concepts are largely similar. So, what are the important facts about divorce?

Firstly, you’ll need to be married for at least one year before you can apply for a divorce. However, there are alternative options if the marriage started less than a year ago. You should also check whether you are eligible for a divorce in the UK, as some foreign marriages may not be officially recognised. You or your partner should also have a connection to the UK, such as being a UK citizen or living in the UK permanently.

If you’re eligible for a divorce, then you will need to express to the courts that your marriage has irretrievably broken down, which you will be asked to confirm on the application form. There is no longer any need to communicate the reasons for this and can be expressed as a mutual decision, compared to pre 2022 where you had to incite blame on one party.

Remember that the process can be a costly affair. In order to ensure that a divorce is managed fairly, we highly recommend reaching out to a solicitor in the first instance, to facilitate the divorce proceedings. Next, we would recommend speaking to a financial adviser who can prepare you for this new stage of life through effective cash flow planning.

The planning tool can determine how much annual income you require and how to divide the marital assets fairly. This process is not straight forward, as financial investments can be extensive and complex, a financial adviser can work with each party together or separately to ensure the value of the asset is appropriately known. Next, the adviser can liaise directly with the solicitor to ensure agreement of the value of the marital assets and how to divide appropriately.

What is the divorce process?

To better understand divorce length of time and respond to the question “how long does it take a divorce to go through?”, it’s useful to understand the stages of the divorce process. Before you begin, you should try to discuss some of the key issues with your partner or former partner, aided by seeking financial advice, which could see that you could come to an agreement early on for how to divide the marital assets and determine the best course of custody of any children. However, this may not be possible, so speaking to a solicitor to aid the divorce proceedings is highly recommended.

You and your partner will only need to make one application between you. This can either be a joint application (which involves both of you together) or a sole application (which is initiated by only one partner). You should only take out a joint application if you are certain that you and your partner will be in agreement throughout the divorce on topics such as dividing assets and custody of children. The starting point is that each party pays their own costs, although the court can make an order that one person pays the other person’s costs in certain circumstances. The court fee is £593 and solicitors’ fees are likely to be between £500 - £1,000 + VAT provided that things are straightforward. There is the added cost of seeking financial advice to determine the best course of action to share the marital assets, as well as facilitating a pension sharing order if needed.

Once you have decided which of you will be making the application, you can get the necessary documentation. To fill out the documentation, you’ll need information such as your partner’s name, email and address, as well as those of their solicitor. You can apply for a divorce online, which can reduce divorce length of time, via the HMCTS (His Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service) website, but we recommend instructing a solicitor who will deal with the application for you. You will need a copy of your marriage certificate.

Once you have filed for divorce, the court will send a copy of your divorce or dissolution application to your partner in a process that is known as ‘serving divorce papers’. They will send both a letter in the post and a link via email so that your partner can access the forms digitally. If you made a joint application, then you’ll both be notified by email or post.

In some cases, you will serve the papers to your partner yourself. For example, if they don’t live in the UK, if the court has attempted to serve the paper two times and failed, or if you specifically request to serve the papers yourself. Bear in mind this could increase the divorce length of time, especially if it’s difficult to reach your partner.

How we can help

As you can see, a divorce is a complex and often difficult process and so answering the question “how long does divorce take?” is not always straightforward. To avoid delay, speak to a financial adviser and a solicitor from the outset.

You can speed up the process by making your application online. In addition, in an ideal world you should aim to make agreements with your partner prior to initiating the divorce process to ensure you are both on the same page. However, this may not always be possible.

Navigating divorce is challenging and dividing marital assets can be one of the most sensitive and fraught areas of the entire process. That’s why it can be a good idea to get help from a reputable and certified firm of financial advisers, like The Private Office. Contact our team to arrange a free initial consultation.

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Please note: This article is intended for general information and does not constitute individual financial advice. The FCA does not regulate wills, tax, estate or cash flow planning.