How to Start Divorce Proceedings in the UK: A Step-by-Step Guide

divorce proceedings
How to Start Divorce Proceedings in the UK: A Step-by-Step Guide

Divorce is a significant life event that can be emotionally and legally complex. For those considering initiating a divorce in the UK, understanding the process and knowing what steps to take can help manage the stress and ensure that proceedings go as smoothly as possible. This guide provides a detailed look at how to start divorce proceedings, from making the initial decision to submitting the divorce application.

Understanding the Grounds for Divorce

Before initiating divorce proceedings, it’s essential to confirm that you have valid grounds for divorce. As of April 2022, divorce law in England and Wales recognises ‘no-fault divorce’, allowing couples to dissolve their marriage without assigning blame to either party. The sole ground for divorce under this new framework is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, which simplifies the process and aims to reduce the conflict between parties.

Step 1: Consider Mediation and Counselling

Before starting the legal proceedings, consider whether relationship counselling or mediation might help. Counselling can assist couples in exploring the possibility of reconciliation or in managing the separation more amicably. If the decision to divorce is final, mediation can be a beneficial step to agree on various aspects, such as financial arrangements and child custody, without going to court.

Step 2: Seek Legal Advice

Consulting with a solicitor specialising in family law is highly advisable. A solicitor can provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances, help you understand your rights and obligations, and represent you throughout the process. They can also help prepare and review all the necessary documentation to ensure that your interests are well-protected.

Step 3: Prepare and File the Divorce Application

Collecting Necessary Documents

To begin divorce proceedings, you will need to gather the required documents:

  • Your marriage certificate.
  • Financial records.
  • Any existing prenuptial agreements.
  • Details about your living situation, finances, and arrangements for children.

Completing the Application

You must complete a divorce application form, known as Form D8 (‘Divorce Petition’). This form asks for details about your marriage, grounds for divorce, and any arrangements you propose for your children, if applicable.

Filing the Application

Once the divorce application is prepared, file it with the court. You can do this online or by mailing it to your nearest divorce centre. There is a fee for filing a divorce application, which you need to pay unless you qualify for a fee exemption or reduction based on financial hardship.

Step 4: Serving the Divorce Application

After the court processes your application, they will send a copy to your spouse, now referred to as the ‘respondent’. The respondent has a set period (usually 14 days) to reply. They can either:

  • Acknowledge the application and agree to the divorce.
  • Dispute the grounds for divorce.
  • Defend against the divorce if they do not want it to proceed.

Step 5: Apply for a Conditional Order

Once the respondent has acknowledged the application and agreed to proceed, you can apply for a ‘Conditional Order’. This is a document issued by the court that states it sees no reason why you cannot divorce.

Waiting Period

Before a Conditional Order can be made final, there is a mandatory waiting period of six weeks and one day after the date of the conditional order. This period allows for any additional considerations or changes of heart before the divorce is finalised.

Step 6: Apply for the Final Order

After the waiting period, you can apply for a ‘Final Order’, which formally ends the marriage. Once the Final Order is issued, your divorce is complete.

Additional Considerations

Financial Settlement

It’s essential to resolve financial matters before the Final Order. These negotiations can determine how assets are divided, whether maintenance payments are required, and how pensions are shared. In some cases, these issues can be resolved through mediation; otherwise, they may require court intervention.

Child Arrangements

If you have children, deciding where they will live and the visiting arrangements for the non-resident parent is crucial. It’s best if both parents can agree on these arrangements amicably. If not, the court may need to make these decisions based on what’s best for the children.

Emotional Support

Divorce can be emotionally challenging. Support from friends, family, or professional counsellors can be invaluable during this time. Consider seeking support groups or counselling to help manage the emotional aspects of divorce.


Starting divorce proceedings in the UK involves several detailed steps, from filing the initial application to receiving the Final Order. Each stage requires careful consideration to ensure that all legal, financial, and emotional aspects are addressed. With the right preparation and support, you can navigate this challenging process more effectively, ensuring that your rights are protected and the divorce proceedings are handled as smoothly as possible.

Avatar of DLS Solicitors by DLS Solicitors
13th May 2024
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

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