How Long Does a Divorce Take?

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There can be many contributing factors which can impact how long your divorce will take; if there are children involved, if your spouse is contesting the divorce and what is at stake financially.

Some Solicitors will suggest a divorce can take anywhere from 16-24 weeks where there are no complications, which could extend up to a year for acrimonious couples.

Nowadays, couples are also accessing ‘Do It Yourself Quickie Divorces’ with promises of fast turnaround times, though there are still mandatory timeframes when the court can issue paperwork – so they don’t be misled. Obtain advice from your Solicitor who can explain this to you so you know what to expect.

So let’s delve into what can both speed up or even slow down your divorce:

Factors which can impact the time to divorce

The time taken to divorce your spouse can be influenced by many different elements during the divorce process such as:

a) Contesting the divorce

Contesting the divorce application may be driven by many reasons; an emotional and volatile partner, your partner contesting purely to delay the process, aiming to hike up your costs or simply doesn’t agree with the grounds for divorce

If your spouse/partner refuses to accept your divorce petition, then this can result in a 28 days window during which they can ask the court for a ‘directions of trial’ which will lead to a final hearing.

Additionally, if the respondent has not acknowledged your divorce petition within the legal requirement of 8 days and one of the reasons is due to them no longer living at the address or working for their current employer, it will time take to locate their whereabouts.

b) Mediation

For some couples mediation can speed up the divorce process, to allow informal discussions to agree the division of finances and where appropriate, arrangements for any children.

This cuts out the process of negotiations through the Solicitors or the court, with outcomes that can be granted quickly by the Judge. On the other hand, unsuccessful mediation will result in court intervention and attending hearings which will delay your divorce.

c) Grounds for divorce

Your grounds for divorce may be straight forward which can lead to a speedy application; based on ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or by ‘mutual consent after being separated for two years continuously’.

Though if the reason is named as ‘5 years separation without consent’ and the other party is either uncooperative or you are unable to locate your spouse, then it can take time to locate them or even prove they received the divorce petition. This can require court intervention and additional steps.

d) Financial order

Some couples are able to give their assent quickly to the division of their financial assets including the matrimonial home, savings, pensions etc. though if it’s acrimonious then the discussions can become lengthy and the court will intervene. With a lack of agreement, it can delay the Decree Nisi or the Decree Absolute being granted by the court.

e) Provision for children

Like the finances, if welfare and provision for the children are not in order or to the satisfaction of the court, either agreed via Solicitors or during mediation, then legal proceedings will be initiated.

This could involve your Solicitor drafting up a court consent order, the intervention of court welfare officers, applications for residence or even specific issue orders if it’s related to education and religion.

f) Lodging official paperwork

Hopefully this will not be a reason for delay If you are employing a Solicitor. Your Solicitor will ensure your paperwork will be correct and filed within key timeframes; your divorce petition, submitting the supplementary documentation such as marriage certificates, where appropriate financial orders, court orders and application for your Decree Nisi and Absolute.

g) Decree Nisi

The court may refuse to grant your Decree Nisi if there is concern that the finances or childcare arrangements are not satisfactory. This scenario would result in the parent’s re-negotiating arrangements or legal intervention in the worst case.

h) Decree Absolute

Six weeks after the Decree Nisi has been granted, you can apply for the Decree Absolute. If the court is satisfied with all paperwork and agreements then it will be approved.

i) Efficiency of courts and processing of paperwork

As discussed in our post about the divorce process, there is reliance on the court to efficiently process all paperwork and review each case individually. The timing may be dependent on resources and applications received into your regional divorce centre.

Finally, a good Solicitor can counteract circumstances which may arise with proven tactics from their experience of divorce and understanding of the legal proceedings. Your Solicitor will represent you in your best interests, submitting paperwork on time and where appropriate managing perhaps the difficult behaviour or your spouse/partner.

So really it’s hard to predict how long your divorce will take, as it really is ‘how long is a piece of string’.

Some factors may be within the control of your Solicitor to manage and others within the ownership of the Court or your soon to be ex-partner/spouse.