A first check
If you have been separated from your husband, wife or civil partner for a long time, it is possible they have already divorced you or ended your civil partnership and you just don’t know it. You can check whether this has happened by asking for a search of the Central Index of Decrees Absolute and Final Orders. You will have to pay a fee to get this done. For further information about this see: Request for search for divorce decree absolute (Form D440)
You use the Family Court. if you do your application online, this is called the online court. There is no need to send anything in the post. If you want to do a paper application, using Form D8, you can find the correct court address at the end of the form.
If you apply online you don’t need to worry so much about which forms to do when, especially after you have done the first application, as the court sends you updates by email and tells you what you need to do next.
If you decide to apply on paper, this guide links to all the forms you need, step by step as you go through.
Most court forms can seem a bit intimidating when you first look at them. A large part of most form filling involves giving factual information. If you are applying online, read through each question a couple of times before answering so you are sure you understand, then move onto the next page.
If you decide to do a paper application, read through each form a couple of times to find out what information it asks for. Then get together the information you need before you start filling it in. Once you have done this, the job may turn out to be a bit easier than you first thought.
However you do your application, you don't need to use long words and legal language in what you write. The best thing is to keep it short and simple. If you do a paper application be sure to use black ink and write as clearly as you can.
Family Court fees
You usually have to pay a Family Court fee when you start (issue) divorce proceedings or proceedings to end a civil partnership. For information about Family Court fees, when to pay them and how much they are, see court leaflet EX50 at Civil and Family Court Fees
You can also read our short guide on getting help with family court fees, to see if you might be exempt from paying some or all of the fee.
In some circumstances you may be exempt - you not have to pay a fee at all or you may only have to pay a reduced fee. For example, you will not pay anything if you can prove that you get Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit guarantee credit, Universal Credit with gross annual earnings of less than £6,000 or income-related Employment and Support Allowance and your savings or other capital don’t exceed certain limits.
If you and your ex make an application together for the divorce or dissolution, you must both be financially eligible for help with fees.
If you apply online for your divorce or dissolution, you will be directed to a new page where you can apply for help with fees. If you are successful in getting help with fees you then get a code to put in a box in the divorce application so that you don’t have to pay. If you don’t want to do the help with fees application online you will need to pay the fee and then claim it back later by doing a paper application.
If you do a paper application, you can do either an online application for help with fees or fill out the paper one. To apply on paper you need form EX160. You can find this form and notes to help you complete the form correctly by searching online for ‘EX160’. This will take you to the correct GOV.UK webpage.
If you do have to pay part of or the whole fee, it is possible your ex may be willing to share the cost with you. Beware that you cannot share the payment of the fee to the court - the system will only accept one payment for the application. If you want to try and share this, it is a good idea to get the money from your ex-partner in advance!
How long will it take?
It will take at least 6 months (26 weeks) from the date you make your application, but it is likely to take more like 8 months due to the time the court needs to process each step. This is because you have to wait 20 weeks from the date you apply, before you can apply for what is called a ‘conditional order’. After this order is made by the court, you have to wait at least another 6 weeks to apply for what is called a ‘final order’. It is often better to delay applying for a final order while you finalise your finances, rather than rus
hing to get a final order. This is because the final divorce or dissolution order affects your legal rights, for example:
- rights in relation to the family home,
- rights in relation to pensions, and,
- the right to bring a claim for a financial order in relation to the marriage if the other person dies after the final order is made, but before finances are agreed and approved by the court.
We talk more about this in our guide How to apply for a financial order without a lawyer.
How much will it cost?
As well as court fees, it will also cost you time, if you are going to deal with the process yourself.
If you employ a solicitor to do it for you then you will have to pay for their time and that can be expensive. Some solicitors offer a fixed fee to deal with the divorce for you but they will usually charge an hourly rate to advise you on finances on divorce.
Try searching the internet using the words ‘solicitor divorce fixed fee’ and you will find plenty of choice. We suggest you ring around or email several firms to check what they are offering for the price they are quoting. What will they do for you? What do they expect you to do?
Legal aid is only available to pay for a lawyer to help you get a divorce or to end a civil partnership (or to respond to your ex’s application for the same) in very limited circumstances. You may be able to get legal aid but only if you:
- can prove you have suffered domestic violence or abuse or that your child is at risk of abuse from your ex, and,
- you are financially eligible.
Domestic violence and abuse is any controlling, coercive, or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse. The abuse may be psychological, physical, sexual, economic or emotional. If you are in this situation there are organisations that can help you, see More help and advice on how to get a divorce.
To apply for legal aid, you must be able to give your solicitor some evidence that you have suffered domestic violence or that your child is at risk of abuse from your ex. For further information, see: Legal aid for victims of domestic violence.
If you are not in this position, then you will have to pay for help or do the job yourself. Our guide is here to help you do that.
Legal aid is still available to pay for family mediation. Eligibility for legal aid depends on your financial circumstances. You can check if you are financially eligible for legal aid here: Check if you can get legal aid.
There is also a family mediation voucher scheme where divorcing couples with children can get £500 off the cost of mediation fees. If you look into mediation, make sure you ask if the mediator offers the voucher scheme. You can find lots of useful information about family mediation by going to A survival guide to family Mediation.
If you find that you have some money that you can afford to spend on help from a solicitor, it will usually be best to prioritise getting advice on how to sort out the finances side of things. This is because the law about finances on divorce is more complicated than the process for getting the divorce part sorted out, especially now you can apply through the online service that is aimed at people without a solicitor.
Asking your ex to pay your costs
You cannot ask the court to order that your ex pays your costs in your application form. As the new law removes the potential for blame, it is much harder to ask for costs to be paid by your ex.
If you end up needing to make extra applications, to progress your main divorce application, you may want to ask the court to make a costs order. To do this, you would need to make a separate application. Make sure you get legal advice on this, before making any applications - it is likely that successful applications for costs orders will be rare under the new law.