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When Can I Start Divorce Proceedings in England and Wales

 July 2023

If you are considering divorce, it's essential to understand when you can start divorce proceedings in England and Wales and the legal process.

In this article, our family law solicitors offer guidance on starting no-fault divorce proceedings.

Initial Discussion

This summary provides general information and does not constitute legal advice on any individual circumstances. 

For an initial discussion and a no-obligation quote, get in touch with us today by simply calling us on 01234 343134 or email us at and a member of our team will get back to you.

Timeframe to Start Divorce Proceedings

In England and Wales you need to have been married for at least 12 months before you can start divorce proceedings. If you have not been married for 12 months our family law solicitors can discuss with you whether you can apply for an annulment.

Although you cannot start divorce proceedings until you have been married for 12 months, you can start to agree on a financial settlement or the arrangements for your children before applying for your divorce. Your family solicitor can prepare a separation agreement for you to record the financial agreement reached. Once divorce proceedings are underway, you can ask the court to convert the separation agreement into a binding financial court order.

Divorce Proceedings and Separation

To start divorce proceedings in England and Wales you do not need to have been separated for a specified period before you can apply for a divorce. Many people still think that they need to wait 2 years before they can start divorce proceedings and be able to prove that they have been separated for that period. That is not correct.

With the introduction of no-fault divorce proceedings, you do not have to give reasons for the marriage breakdown (such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or 2 years of separation with consent). Instead, you simply need to file a divorce application and a statement saying that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.

No-fault Divorce Proceedings

Although you can start divorce proceedings once you have been married for 12 months, it is generally advisable to speak to your husband or wife before applying to the court for a divorce. That’s because it is best to keep things as amicable as possible to help you negotiate a financial settlement for future living or contact arrangements for your children.

There is no requirement to have resolved financial claims or child arrangements before you start the divorce proceedings.

You can normally apply for a financial settlement after the divorce proceedings have been concluded. However, family solicitors generally do not recommend delay in starting a financial application if you cannot reach a financial settlement using solicitor negotiations or family mediation.

The Divorce Timeline

It normally takes around 6 months to obtain a no-fault divorce. That’s because court rules dictate the divorce timeline.

Your divorce is not finalised until you obtain your final order of divorce. This used to be referred to as the decree absolute of divorce. There is normally no need for you or your spouse to go to a court hearing to secure your divorce.

The right time to start divorce proceedings is an individual decision. Some people are content to remain separated whilst others want to start divorce proceedings straight away. This could be because they have met a new partner, due to domestic violence or simply to achieve finality to enable them and their estranged husband or wife to move on with their lives.

Our specialist family law solicitors will not rush you into starting divorce proceedings. We will listen to you and talk to you about your options and work with you to secure a divorce in a timeframe that is right for you.

How Can Fullers Help?

We understand that finding a solicitor that you feel understands your own specific situation can be a daunting task. So, you can book a free call back with us here.

We have also created a series of fixed-price consultation meetings with a full ‘no questions asked’ money-back guarantee promise.

For an initial discussion and a no-obligation quote, get in touch with us today by simply calling us on 01234 343134, filling in the contact form below, or emailing us at and a member of our team will get back to you.

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