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Ending a marriage or civil partnership

Ending a relationship officially can feel like a huge step, especially when you have children. But sometimes it’s the best thing for the family. This page guides you through some important things to understand about getting divorced when you’re married. If you’re in a civil partnership, this is called a dissolution – but the process is the same.

When you can end a marriage or civil partnership

How to get a divorce or end your civil partnership

Useful links

When you can end a marriage or civil partnership

If you’ve been married or civil partnered for at least 1 year, you can apply for a divorce (marriage) or dissolution (civil partnership). If you haven’t been married or civil partnered for that long, you can apply for a legal separation. It’s usually better to wait until you can get a divorce or dissolution.

The rules changed in April 2022, and you no longer need to have ‘grounds’ for a divorce. This means you can end your marriage or civil partnership without having to give a reason. So you can focus your energies on agreeing important things like:

  • How to divide the money you share
  • Where you’ll live
  • Arrangements for your children 

If you’re in the UK as a dependent on your partner’s visa, you’ll need to think carefully about how you can stay in the UK. Citizens Advice has information on your options for staying and where to get advice. You might also want to get legal support.

If you applied before 6 April 2022

If you made your divorce or dissolution application before 6 April 2022, the steps to take will be different – gov.uk has the details:

How to get a divorce or end your civil partnership

There are a few important things to bear in mind when it comes to officially ending a relationship.

Making the application

You only have to file 1 application – this can be:

  • From both of you (a joint application) – best when you can agree throughout the process
  • From one of you (a sole application) – either you or your partner can do this, even if one of you doesn’t agree

If one of you files the application, the other can no longer disagree (or ‘dispute’ the application) – unless there’s a legal reason why this can’t happen.

You can apply for a divorce and to end a civil partnership online. There’s also a paper form you can fill in and send. As of 2023, this costs £593. If you claim certain benefits or are on a low income, you might be able to get help with this fee – see getting help with court fees.

If you’re worried about your partner knowing where you live, you can ask the court not to share your address with them. Tick the box on the application to keep your contact details confidential. If you’re concerned about the safety of yourself or your children while separating, see our page on leaving an abusive relationship.

You can also hire a solicitor to manage the process for you. This might be useful if you’re struggling to agree or if your situation is complicated. The Law Society has a useful guide on what to expect when using a solicitor. Resolution has a helpful search for finding a solicitor as well as advice for parents on separating.

How the process works

The clock starts ticking when you make the application. This starts a 20-week ‘reflection’ period – time for you and your partner to make sure you definitely want to go ahead.

After 20 weeks, you can apply for a conditional order. This involves sorting out how your money and property will be divided. If you’re having trouble agreeing on this, see the advice on our page on help when you can’t agree.

Once you have a conditional order, you have to wait 6 weeks and 1 day (43 days) before you can take the next step. Then you can apply for a final order online or by post. When the final order comes through, which usually takes around 4 weeks, you’re officially divorced or no longer in a civil partnership.

The whole process takes at least 6 months, even when things seem straightforward.

Date last updated: 24 April 2024

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