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Steps to Getting a Divorce

Getting a divorce is a process with multiple stages. The information below will help guide you through every step in the simplest terms.

The divorce petition

The first stage in getting a divorce is filing what is called the petition. This involves filling in a form which can be downloaded here.

On this form you must indicate which of the five grounds for divorce you are using to demonstrate that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.

You need to send two copies of the completed form to the court, plus an additional copy if you named someone with whom your partner had an affair. It would also be wise to keep your own copy. You should attach a copy of your marriage certificate (the original or a copy obtained from a register office).

You can find your nearest divorce court by using the government’s Courtfinder service.

You will have to pay a fee of £410 to the court for your divorce petition to be processed.

Responding to a divorce petition

If your spouse has filed for divorce, you will be sent their divorce petition by the court. You will also be sent a notice of proceedings form and an acknowledgement of service form. You will need to fill in and send back the latter form within 21 days or your partner will be able to proceed with the divorce as if you had agreed.

If you agree with the divorce

Fill in the acknowledgement of service form and return it within 8 days, and the divorce will go ahead.

If you disagree with the divorce

Fill in the acknowledgement of service form and return it within 8 days, indicating that you do not agree with the divorce. You then have 21 days in which to give your reasons for opposing the divorce, for which you will need the answer to a divorce petition form.

A £245 court fee may be payable when doing this.

Filing your own divorce petition

You may wish to start your own divorce proceedings against your spouse after receiving their divorce petition, for example if you have evidence that they are the one who has been unfaithful. If so, you can fill in your own petition and send it to the court.

A £410 court fee may be payable when doing this.

If the respondent disagrees with the divorce or files their own petition, a court hearing will usually be heard in order to discuss the case.

Applying for a decree nisi

A decree nisi is a document which certifies that the court sees no reason why you cannot divorce from your partner.

You can apply for your decree nisi whether your spouse agrees to the divorce or not, but if they do choose to defend the divorce then you will have to attend a court hearing.

To apply for this document, you need to fill out an application for a decree nisi form along with a statement to confirm that what you said in your petition is true. There is a different statement for each of the five facts of divorce:

When sending off these forms, you will need to attach a copy of your spouse’s response to the divorce petition.

If your application is successful, you will receive from the court a certificate of entitlement to a decree nisi along with the decree itself.

The decree nisi allows you to apply for a decree absolute after 6 weeks have passed.

If your application is unsuccessful then you will receive a notice of refusal of judge’s certificate form which will explain why you can’t divorce. This form will guide you on what to do next.

The decree absolute

This is the document that officially ends your marriage. You will need another form to apply for it. The document will cost £45 if you started your divorce proceedings before 1 July 2013; otherwise it is included in the fee for starting the divorce.

It is advisable to apply for your decree absolute within 12 months of receiving your decree nisi, or you will have to explain the delay to the court.

If the court is satisfied that:

  • arrangements for children aren’t a reason to delay the divorce
  • time limits have been met
  • there are no other reasons not to grant the divorce,

then a decree absolute will be sent to you and your spouse, confirming the end of your marriage.

Your decree absolute will allow you to remarry, as well as permit you to revert to your birth name if you so wish.

Getting a copy of a decree absolute

The decree absolute granted in divorce is something you may need later down the line if you wish to remarry. You will need the original document rather than a mere photocopy. Therefore, if you have misplaced it, you will have to go through the process of obtaining a new copy.

How easy this process proves to be will depend on how much information you can remember about how you originally obtained your decree nisi or decree absolute.

If you remember the name of the court which issued your decree absolute then your first port of call should be the court at which you first got hold of the document. They will be able to grant you a new copy of the document, although it will cost you.

The price will only be £5 if you can remember the case number pertaining to your separation; if you cannot remember than it will cost you the sum of £40.

If you cannot remember at which court you got your decree absolute or decree nisi, you should contact the Principal Registry of the Family Division. This will be more expensive, as you will have to pay £60 for them to search for your records.

To contact the registry, send an email to, call 020 7947 7017, or write to them at:

First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn