How to file for divorce?

The journey of marriage is often embarked upon between two people who are brimming with hope, desire, and love. The commitment to tie your life with someone else’s forever is not one many take lightly, and it is a pivotal moment in so many adult lives. 

Despite this, people and circumstances change and grow. It can be hard to recognise and acknowledge that your marriage may no longer be serving you in the ways it once did. 

Once this realisation, this is apparent and accepted, divorce may be the best option for you and your partner to continue living lives that are the most fulfilling and hold the most potential for long-term happiness.

How to file for divorce?

Divorce is more often than not costly and time-consuming. It can also take a significant emotional toll on both the couple and their friends and family. 

However, one silver lining is that in the United Kingdom, the process of filing for divorce is relatively straightforward. Important to mention, no two divorce proceedings are the same; the details depend on the couple, their assets, and the conditions under which divorce is being filed. 

However, specific steps are uniform and necessary in the ending of any legally bound marriage.  

Eligibility for Divorce 

 First and foremost, to file for divorce in the United Kingdom, there are several critical stipulations:

First, you or your partner need to have permanent resident status in England or Wales. Second, you need to provide substantial evidence supporting why the divorce is unavoidable. The only five reasons that the courts consider grounds for divorce include: 

  1.  Adultery
  2.  Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion for a minimum of two years
  4. Separation for two years, if both partners consent to the divorce
  5. Separation for at least five years, even if one partner dissents to the divorce

 You are legally eligible for divorce if you meet the residency requirements and can provide evidence for at least one of the five reasons listed.

Initial Steps: The Form D8 Application

To file for divorce, first search your nearest government divorce centre using this finder. Next, download and complete a Form D8. The Form D8 is the application for divorce, dissolution, judicial separation or separation order. You will need to bring three copies of a completed Form D8, one copy (original or certified) of your marriage/civil partnership certificate, and the court fee of £550 to your appointment at your specified divorce centre.

The D8 Form is composed of eleven sections. Some of these sections ask directly factual questions, such as you and your partners birthday’s, the date of your marriage, and whether you have any children. Other sections are slightly more complicated and ask questions regarding the division of your money and property, or about the specific evidence, you have proving grounds for divorce.

Secondary Steps: The Decree Nisi

Once you submit your divorce application to your local centre, the process is underway. If your spouse does not dispute the divorce petition, you can apply directly for a decree nisi. The decree nisi is the critical first step in progressing your divorce past the application stage. This is a document that specifies the court’s support for your divorce and legitimises your grievances. To get a decree nisi, fill out an application form here

If your spouse disputes the divorce, it is required that you attend a court hearing to discuss the case. This has a £50 fee associated. The courts will only provide a decree nisi once your partner’s response to the petition is both affirmative and clearOnce both partners agree to the divorce, the likelihood of rejection is small. 

However, if it does occur, it often means that there is not enough evidence to support the reason for divorce. A re-file is expedited upon the collection of these necessary documents. 

Tertiary Steps: The Decree Absolute

To apply for a decree absolute, a minimum wait time of six weeks and one day after your decree nisi is granted is required. There is also, however, a 12-month time-limit, such that an additional fee is imposed if you do not apply for your decree absolute within that time frame. 

The decree absolute application essentially transitions your decree nisi to something final and permanent. If the partner that started the divorce petition at the outset decides not to follow through with the decree absolute application, the other partner can choose to do so after an additional three months (on top of the six weeks and one day). 

Important to note, as finances can be complicated and controversial, it is advised that all financial assets are fully divided before the application for the decree absolute is filled out. This is particularly the case if you plan to add a legally binding financial arrangement into the divorce agreement. Often, mediators and specialised solicitors are called in to assist with this particular portion of the divorce proceeding, as knowing how best to split shared finances can be difficult.  

To grant a decree absolute, the courts will check that the appropriate time limits have been met and that there are no outstanding reasons why the divorce should not be finalised. This process can be swift, and most applicants will receive their confirmation document within 24 hours if applied for online. To apply for the decree absolute online, complete an application here

Once the decree absolute has been granted, the marriage is officially dissolved. Both parties are free to remarry legally. 


Divorces are not enjoyable experiences. They are often complicated, messy, and full of hurt for both parties involved. However, when done at the right time with the appropriate amount of respect, they can be an immensely valuable opportunity for a fresh start and a better path. 

The most straightforward divorce process in the United Kingdom is devised to allow people to move onto the next stages of their life with minimal pain and emotional anguish. For further support or information regarding specifics about the Form D8, Decree Nisi, or Decree Absolute, please see other articles here

Alternately, contact a divorce solicitor for any legal advice tailored to your needs.

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