How to File for Divorce in England (Family Law Act 1996)

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This article outlines the 7 stages of a divorce in England and Wales under the Family Law Act 1996.

Divorce in England and Wales is covered by the Family Law Act 1996. This article will explain how you start a petition for divorce in England and Wales. Hire a solicitor to be sure that you can prove one of the grounds for divorce; Adultery, Unreasonable Behavior, Desertion, 2 Years Separation, and 5 Years Separation.

Whilst it is possible to file divorce without a solicitor, it is advisable to hire one, especially if there are disagreements, for example, financial or custody of children. A solicitor will ensure that you get the fairest possible divorce.

There are 7 steps when you file for a divorce in England, they are as follows:

Step 1 - Request the court to start divorce proceedings

Here you need to fill in a number documents, provide your birth certificate and also pay an upfront fee. If children are involved then are more documents to fill out.

Step 2 - Checking the Petition

In this step, the court reviews the documents submitted when filing for divorce and if satisfied will send the divorce submission to the husband or wife not making the petition (also known as, the respondent).

Step 3 - Disputing the Petition

At this point the respondent has 7 days to acknowledge the petition and whether or not they dispute the petition for divorce. If the respondent does, in fact, dispute the petition for divorce, he has a further 28 days from the date of receiving the petition to produce an answer as to why he or she disputes it. 

Step 4 - Swearing Under Oath

The petitioner must swear an affidavit to say that the facts of the petition are true, this written statement sworn under oath states that all facts are true.

Step 5 - Decree Nisi

At this step the court will issue a decree nisi if they are happy with the documentation. It is this stage that any disagreement over children will be heard. If there isn't any disagreement then there is no need for either the petitioner or the respondent to attend court in person.

Step 6 - Decree Absolute

At this state the petitioner needs to apply for a decree absolute within 6 weeks and a day and pay the appropriate court fee.

Step 7 - Divorced

The court will send a copy of the decree absolute to both parties. This is a legally binding document and should be kept safe.


Although this short article suggests that there are 7 'easy' steps to divorce, this isn't usually the case. Even the simplest of divorces and can a number of months to complete and a divorce case with many issues could take years. This article was written with the intention to outline the steps when filing for a divorce in England under the Family Law Act 1996.


William Lake
Posted on Feb 27, 2011
john doe
Posted on Feb 27, 2011
john doe
Posted on Feb 27, 2011