Filing for divorce
The first step of the divorce process is to complete a divorce petition form, stating, amongst other things:
- the full names and addresses of both spouses
- the names and dates of birth of any children from the marriage (even if they are over 18), and
- the ground(s) for divorce
Two copies of the divorce petition form (three copies if you have named someone with whom your spouse had an affair) should be sent to your nearest family law court along with your marriage certificate (either the original or an official copy from a register office). You should also keep at least one copy for your own records.
You will also have to pay a court fee (currently £550) to begin divorce proceedings upon submitting a petition. You may be eligible for a reduction or exemption from court fees if your income falls below a certain threshold or you are on benefits.
For more information, see the government's guidance.
Responding to a divorce petition
If your spouse has filed for divorce, you will receive the completed divorce petition form, along with a notice of proceedings form (which contains your case number and details of what you must do next) and an acknowledgement of service form. If you agree with the divorce petition, you should fill out the acknowledgement of service form and return this to the court within 8 days.
If you disagree with the divorce petition, you should still complete the acknowledgement of service form but ensure you fill in the part which states you are defending the divorce, within 7 days. Submitted copies of this form will later be sent to your spouse. You will have 21 days after submitting the acknowledgement of service form to explain why you are defending the divorce (known as ‘giving an answer’) using the answer to a divorce petition form. You may have to pay an additional court fee (currently £245) for giving an answer - you might be able to get help paying it.
Additionally, you may decide to start your own divorce proceedings against your spouse by filing your own divorce petition.
Note that if you do not respond within 28 days of receiving a divorce petition, your spouse will be able to proceed with the divorce as if you have agreed.
If a divorce petition is defended, or both spouses issue divorce proceedings, the court will generally hold a hearing to discuss the case, which both parties will normally have to attend to reach an agreement. Legal advice should be taken in the case of a court hearing.