When your relationship has broken down and you feel that the time has come to move on, then you may be considering a divorce. But what is the law on divorce? Being armed with the information you need is the best way to make sure that your divorce is smooth and dealt with quickly.

Is divorce the way to go?

Before you start any legal proceedings, you need to be absolutely sure that divorce is the way you want to go, you may want to consider the other options available to you. You could opt for judicial separation, which is a particular consideration when there are religious obligations to consider – it ends the legal duty to co-habit but neither can then remarry. Like divorce, this option should be discussed with a legal representative.

You could also decide to separate for a while, with no legal obligation initially, which would involve you coming to a mutual agreement about the children (if this applies) and living in separate houses. This is often a popular choice prior to divorce proceedings being issued, to give the parties involved the chance to make sure they do want to be apart.

Reasons for divorce

Once you have made the final decision that you want to get a divorce, there are a number of ways that you can qualify for this. You must have been married for at least one year at the time of applying for a divorce and you must show that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.

There are five ways for you to show this:

  • Adultery

This reason can be used when you think that your husband or wife has had an extra-marital affair, but this is notoriously difficult to prove and is usually only used when the other party admits to it.

  • Unreasonable behaviour

This is when your spouse has behaved in a way that means you can no longer live together. Unreasonable behaviour could cover anything ranging from physical/mental abuse and social isolation to substance abuse and coercive behaviour.

  • Your spouse has deserted you for at least two years

You need to be able to show that you have been deserted by your spouse, which can be shown in different ways. Evidence will need to be provided that, without your knowledge or consent, they abandoned you for the last two years before starting a divorce petition.

  • That you have been living apart for two years and your spouse consents to a divorce

If you can prove that you have been living apart for the last two years and your husband/wife agrees to the divorce, then the divorce petition can be started. This is as opposed to the final reason you can get a divorce:

  • You have been living apart for five years (regardless of whether your spouse consents to the divorce or not)

The divorce is started by one party – known as the ‘petitioner’ – who lodges a petition with the court. This divorce petition sets out the details of the parties, the marriage and the grounds of the divorce. When children are a part of the affected family, then a ‘statement of arrangements’ needs to also be prepared and lodged with the court.

Once everything has been lodged with the court, then a copy of the divorce petition will be sent to your spouse – the ‘respondent’ – who will then need to officially acknowledge receipt of the documents. The onus is then on the judge to grant a ‘decree nisi’ – the first step of your divorce being granted.

Six weeks and one day after the decree nisi is granted, the petitioner can then apply for a ‘decree absolute’ – this then brings the marriage to an end. It’s important to note that during the time between the decree nisi and the decree absolute being granted, the marriage is still legally binding. 

Usual practice is that the time spent between the two documents being granted is to agree settlement of matrimonial assets and arrangements of any children. Overall, it can take anywhere between two and four months for a divorce to be settled and issuing of the decree absolute.


At St Helens law, we charge an hourly rate for all work undertaken. On average, it costs between £500 – £750 for a divorce, plus court fees payable when issuing the petition. It can also cost more depending on financial settlements and child custody arrangements. (It’s important to note that we do not undertake any legal work).

Our team

Here at St Helens Law, our team of specialist experts understand that family matters and we will provide you with the support you need – whenever you need it. Our divorce lawyers will provide you with straightforward, honest advice to help with the process during the difficult time. This encompasses advice on division of assets and arranging mediation, if required.

We understand that the divorce process isn’t always straightforward and as such, problems and difficulties can arise. We use our industry knowhow to manage the legal process with the utmost professionalism, helping you to reach the outcome you desire with little or no complications.

We also ensure that any prenuptial agreements, signed before marriage, are adhered to and we are on hand to help arrange any legal child custody arrangements – even when they are complicated or sensitive.

To arrange a FREE initial consultation with our Family Law team, please call 01744 742360, or click here to email info@sthelenslaw.co.uk.