If you’re in the process of obtaining a divorce, it can be a difficult, challenging, and complicated time. From paying solicitors fees to arranging financial settlements, the UK divorce process has a reputation for being both lengthy and stressful.
Luckily, there are many ways you can now apply for a divorce online, allowing you to begin the proceedings from the comfort of your home. But where can you apply for a divorce online, what documents will you need, and how long does it take?
In this easy guide, we’re going to take you through all the steps you need to follow in order to apply for a divorce online in the UK. We’re going to explain all the supporting documents you need, how to apply directly online, and also give you some key information on how long it should take, and what to expect during the process. Let’s take a look!
How to apply for a divorce online in the UK
If you want to begin your divorce proceedings online, you can do so in one of two ways: either by applying for divorce via the UK government website yourself, or by hiring an online divorce service to handle all the administration for you.
Applying via the government website
If you want to minimise costs, you can apply yourself on the UK government portal. Before beginning your application, you’ll need the following documents and information on-hand:
- Both you and your former spouse’s full names and addresses. This is required so the court can send your former partner a copy of the divorce petition. If you don’t know their new address, contacting close family or friends is the quickest way to find out. If your husband or wife is missing, you can read government guidelines here for instructions on what to do.
- Your original marriage certificate or a certified copy of it. Please also note that if your marriage certificate isn’t in English, you’ll need to provide a certified translation.
- Proof of any name changes if you’ve changed your name since separating from your partner. This can be proved with your marriage certificate or a deed poll.
You’ll also need to pay the £593 court fee which covers all necessary administration and the handling of your divorce application. You’ll be required to pay upfront before proceeding to file your divorce application when applying online, so if you are unable to pay right away it might be better to opt for a postal application.
Some financial assistance may be available to cover the fee for those on government benefits, such as Job Seeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit, and Pension credit.
Your eligibility for financial aid will depend on your total income, including any savings. Generally, anyone under the age of 61 who is both on government benefits and has less than £3000 in savings will be eligible to have their fee covered.
Applying via an online divorce service
When applying for divorce, it’s essential that you ensure zero errors are made when filling in and submitting all the necessary paperwork. Errors or missing information can result in long administrative delays, which will only prolong the painful process further.
This is where an online divorce service, such as Easy Online Divorce, comes in handy. We’ll handle your divorce application from start to finish, saving you money on unnecessary solicitors fees – and we’ll ensure that your divorce application is error-free when submitted to the court.
All you need to do is fill in a quick questionnaire, send us a copy of your marriage certificate, and perform a quick review of your details once we’ve set up your application. Once you’ve confirmed that all the information is correct, you can sit back and relax while we handle the rest.
How long does an online divorce take?
While applying online speeds up the approval of your divorce application, you’ll still need to complete the mandatory 20 week ‘reflection period’ once your online divorce application has been approved.
This 20-week period is government-mandated and allows couples to change their mind before the divorce can proceed further. For those intent on continuing with the divorce process, this period also provides time to settle any financial and custodial matters and seek legal advice.
Once the 20-week wait is up, you’ll then need to apply for a conditional order. This can take 5 weeks to be approved, after which you’ll need to wait another 6 weeks before applying for a final order (aka a finalisation of your divorce.)
When taking into account administrative delays and the 20-week reflection period – and provided that there are no errors on any of your applications – most divorces will take a minimum of 7 months to be concluded and finalised.
Things to consider before applying for a divorce online
While you may be looking to get the process finished and finalised as soon as possible, it’s a good idea to reflect on your circumstances before applying for your divorce petition online. Some key considerations include:
As mentioned above, you’ll need to consider whether you’re ready to pay the £593 court fee before applying for divorce directly. If paying the fee would impact your immediate financial situation, it might be better to apply via post.
Agreements and settlements
Once you have filed for divorce online, you’ll have roughly 20 weeks to reach any agreements with your former spouse regarding finances and childcare. If you’re going to take the traditional route and hire divorce solicitors, it’s a good idea to reach a settlement with your partner beforehand, as this will save potentially thousands on unnecessary legal fees.
Alternatively, you can opt for one of our Managed Divorce packages – for a fixed price, we’ll draft your agreement into a consent order and submit it to the court for approval . You can take a look at our range of managed divorce packages here.
Joint or sole application
You can now jointly apply for divorce online, which means both partners split the £593 court fee. A joint application also saves time, as you’ll cut out the 14-day acknowledgement period for your former partner.
Understanding your divorce application
As briefly alluded to above, you need several divorce papers to finalise and complete your divorce. The UK divorce process is completed in three stages:
Stage 1: Applying for divorce
To begin divorce proceedings, you’ll apply for a divorce online either via the government website, via an online divorce service, or by post. If you’re submitting a sole application, your former spouse will have 14 days to acknowledge the divorce application, either by accepting the divorce or disputing it. Since the introduction of no-fault divorce in the UK in April 2022, a spouse can only dispute a divorce application in extremely rare circumstances.
Stage 2: 20 week reflection period
Once your divorce petition has been accepted, you’ll need to wait a mandatory 20 weeks before being able to apply for a conditional order, which will further your divorce proceedings. This 20 week period should be used to draw up any custody agreements or financial settlements where necessary, which can be done via legal help, mediation, or with the help of your online divorce service.
Stage 3: Applying for a conditional order and final order
Following the 20 week waiting period, divorcing couples are able to apply for a conditional order (formerly known as a decree nisi) which is a legal document granting them the right to a divorce. This can take 5 weeks to be approved by the court. Once the conditional order is approved, divorcing couples need to apply for a final order, which finalises the divorce and is the final step in the divorce process.
Can a divorce application be rejected?
It’s rare for a divorce application in the UK to be rejected. This typically only occurs if you’ve provided false or incorrect information on your application, or failed to provide the correct supporting documents when submitting your divorce papers.
You also need to be married for at least 12 months in order to obtain a divorce. If you’re looking to divorce after less than one year of marriage, your only option is an annulment.
In extremely rare cases, divorce may be rejected on the grounds that it would cause extreme financial hardship for one spouse. However, as courts have the power to implement financial agreements between divorcing partners, this is incredibly uncommon.
Before finalising your divorce, it’s a good idea to obtain a consent order. A consent order is a legal document that seals and binds any settlements agreed to during the reflection period, including the division of any assets. If you add a “clean break” clause to your consent order, you will also be protected from any future financial claims from your ex-spouse.
To apply for a consent order in the UK, you’ll be required to pay a small fee of £53, which is a strictly administrative cost. This does not include any costs associated with hiring a solicitor or an online divorce service to draw up the consent order for you. If you opt for one of our consent order packages, this fee is included in the costs.
In general, a consent order will take around 1-2 months to be approved by the court. Do note that the court does have the power to ask you to make revisions to your agreement if the terms appear unfair to one partner. This can prolong the process of your divorce, so it’s a good idea to agree to fair terms before submitting your application. At Easy Online Divorce, we’ll always review your financial settlements beforehand to minimise any possibility of it being rejected.
While you can get divorced in the UK without a consent order, it will mean that your agreements (including financial agreements such as the division of assets and property) are not considered legally binding.
Understanding the divorce system
While divorce can be a difficult and even scary time, it’s important to know that your rights are protected throughout the entire divorce process. As a divorcing partner, you have the right to fair custodial rights over any shared children, as well as the right to a fair financial settlement.
When it comes to financial matters, it’s always best to reach a private agreement where possible. If a private agreement is impossible, it can be left up to the court to decide, leaving you with little to zero control of how your finances are split.
If you’re unable to negotiate with your partner amicably, you may need to hire a divorce lawyer or use an online divorce service to help you negotiate the terms of your settlement.
Legal fees in the UK: what you need to know
If you’re going to hire family solicitors, you’ll be responsible for paying your own legal fees. Legal fees cover any work carried out by your lawyers during the length of your divorce, from drafting up settlements to representing you in court. While legal help can be useful during a difficult divorce, it can be costly.
How much are divorce legal fees in the UK?
Divorce lawyers in the UK can charge anywhere from £125 to £400 per hour for their services. In London, the hourly rate can be even higher.
How to pay for legal fees in divorce?
In most cases, you’ll be solely responsible for paying your legal fees during a divorce. If you’re unable to pay your own legal fees, the court may be able to – in rare cases – order your former spouse to cover them for you.
You can also opt to pay for your court fees via your financial agreement, whereby any legal costs incurred will be deducted from your final settlement.
Other options include paying your legal fees in instalments (depending on the law firm you’re working with), taking out a 0% interest credit card, or taking out a loan from your bank.
It’s important to carefully consider your financial circumstances before taking out any loans, especially if you’re unsure how long your divorce proceedings might last. Asking for financial aid from family and friends is usually a safer option.
While legal aid does exist in the UK, it’s typically only available to those fleeing domestic abuse within their marriage.
Do I really need to hire solicitors for my divorce?
For most couples, there’s no need to hire expensive solicitors. Hiring solicitors can easily prolong your divorce process, and can even make it more difficult for you to negotiate amicably with your ex spouse over any assets or childcare arrangements.
Using an online divorce service is the best option if you’re worried about mounting legal fees; we’ll perform the same intermediary duties as a divorce lawyer, without the sky-high costs.
Since the changes to divorce law in April 2022, it’s become easier than ever to apply for a divorce in the UK. With the introduction of no-fault divorce, divorces can only be contested in extremely rare circumstances, making it easier for you to obtain a quickie divorce and begin rebuilding your life.
If you want to simplify the process even further, you can opt for an online divorce service like ours. Our online divorce services allow you to apply for a divorce from the comfort of your own home while letting us handle the boring admin. And even better – you won’t spend a day in court.