How to Start Divorce Proceedings in 4 Steps

By October 27, 2017
Where to start a divorce

How to Start a Divorce in England and Wales

If you are looking to file for divorce, one of the first things that you’ll ask yourself is, how do I start?

Divorce is never easy and without pain or stress but there is no need to feel like the divorce process is too daunting for you to complete.

The divorce process can actually be explained in a few simple steps, which can be done without the assistance of a solicitor, helping you save hundreds of pounds on the cost of your divorce.

The divorce process is the exact same for everyone and does not change whether you use an online divorce provider or a local high-street solicitor.

Start Your Divorce in 4 Simple Steps

1. Find a valid ground for divorce to use.
2. File a D8 Divorce petition with the courts
3. Apply for a decree nisi
4. Apply for a decree absolute

In order to file for divorce, you must satisfy the demands of the court, which are below;

  • You must have been married for at least 12 months
  • You need to have a valid ground for divorce
  • Your spouse needs to be likely to agree to the divorce
  • England or Wales must be your permanent home, or if you live abroad you must be domiciled in England or Wales

The very first thing that needs to be done before starting a divorce is to decide which ground for divorce you are going to use.

Depending on your circumstances sometimes this decision can be obvious and for others, it may be more difficult.

Prefer to learn how to start a divorce via telephone? Simply call us on 01793 384 032 and speak to one of our friendly divorce experts.

Here are the grounds for divorce in England & Wales:

1. Adultery
2. Unreasonable Behaviour
3. Desertion
4. 2-year separation (with consent)
5. 5-year separation no consent required

Once you have decided which ground suits your situation you will then be one step closer to starting your divorce.

We’ve given a brief explanation of each ground for divorce to help you decide which one is best for your situation.


Adultery is where your spouse has had sexual intercourse with a member of the opposite sex (The law was made over 40 years ago and same-sex sexual contact or intercourse does not constitute adultery).

To use adultery as your reason for divorce, you must file for divorce within 6 months of finding out about the adultery taking place.

Unreasonable Behaviour

Unreasonable behaviour is the most commonly used ground for divorce. It can involve physical, mental or verbal abuse as well drink or drug misuse.

Unreasonable behaviour does not, however, have to for such serious behaviours and can include not sharing the same marital bed, not socialising together or your spouse telling you that they don’t love you.

You are entitled to use any such behaviours that lead to the breakdown of your marriage, but they must satisfy the judge.


Desertion is rarely used as a ground for divorce.

You must prove that your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of at least 2 years.

2 Years Separation With Consent

If you have been separated for a period of 2 years and both parties agree to the divorce, you can use this ground to obtain an amicable and easy divorce.

There must be agreed by both parties in order to use this ground to obtain a divorce.

5 Years Separation – No Consent Required

No consent or agreement from your spouse is necessary if you have been separated for 5+ years.

You can file for divorce using this ground without needing to consult your spouse, however, if you don’t have an address for your spouse it does become more complicated, so seek advice before proceeding.

After you have decided upon a valid ground for divorce you will then have to apply for a divorce.

Step 1 – File a D8 divorce petition

The first step in starting divorce proceedings involves you completing a D8 divorce petition and then filing it with a local divorce centre.

D8 divorce petition forms can be found online on the or alternatively, you can find them at your local Courthouse.

Make sure you take time to read and fill out the application and ensure that everything is correct.

Once you have sent this off you will then need to wait for the respondent to acknowledge the divorce petition.

Not sure how to complete the divorce petition? Let us do it for you for just £59. For more information view our DIY Divorce Service or call us on 01793 384 032.

Step 2 – Acknowledgement

Waiting for the respondent can be quite time-consuming depending on how they feel about the divorce and whether you know their address.

The court will send your spouse a copy of the divorce petition you’ve filed against them with a form called ‘acknowledgement of service’.

Your spouse needs to complete this form, usually within 7 days and send it back to the court stating whether they are going to defend the divorce or allow it proceed.

Your spouse must be given the opportunity to see the divorce petition regardless of which ground for divorce you use, therefore even if it’s been 5+ years of separation (this is where divorce can become more time consuming, expensive and stressful).


Step 3 – Decree Nisi

What is a decree nisi?

A decree nisi is simply a document that says that the court doesn’t see any reason why you cant divorce.

You can apply for a decree nisi even if your spouse defends your divorce petition.

If your spouse wishes to defend the divorce petition then this will involve going to court for a hearing to discuss your case. They will then decide to grant your decree nisi or not.

Again the forms can be found online on the website or at your local courthouse.

Once your decree nisi has been approved you can then apply for your decree absolute.


Step 4 – Decree Absolute

This is the final stage of every divorce case and officially terminates your divorce.

A decree absolute is a legal document that completely ends your divorce. Once you have received this document you will be legally divorced.

One important thing to note is that you cannot apply for your decree absolute until you have waited 6 weeks from the date your decree nisi was announced.

Once the 6 weeks have passed you will then be able to apply for your decree absolute.

Another important factor to remember is that if you want a legal financial order in place you MUST apply for this before your decree absolute.

Once you have applied unless something has occurred within the 6 weeks then your decree absolute should be granted without a problem.

File for Divorce Without An Address

If the respondent (your ex-partner) does not acknowledge the divorce petition then you will have to employ someone to personally serve the documents to them.

You will then have to send proof to the court to show you have personally served the papers on your spouse.

If you do not know where your spouse lives you will have to show you have attempted to find them via social media, their workplace or through friends or family.

You can have friends and family service the divorce papers on your ex, which can be an inexpensive and easy solution but one that isn’t always possible.

If this is not an option you will have to ask the court for an order that a government agency discloses to the court any address they have on file for the respondent.

We’ve put together a detailed blog post on getting a divorce without your spouse’s address, which is worth reading before starting a divorce if that is the situation you are in.

If the respondent acknowledges and sends off all the correct documentation you will then receive confirmation of this.

Doing your own divorce

In recent years, an increasing amount of couples are handling their own divorce processes and avoiding hiring costly solicitors.

A DIY Divorce is possible if there is an agreement to the divorce, you can agree the reasons for your divorce and key matters such as child arrangements and your finances have been dealt with.

Handling your own divorce process can be daunting and stressful as the divorce forms you’ll need to complete haven’t been designed to be easy to understand and have legal jargon throughout.

If these 4 key matters have been agreed there is no need to instruct a solicitor and you will be able to file for divorce yourself and save time and money.

How Quicke Divorce Can Help You

Although there are only 4 main steps to divorce, each step is very detailed.

Each requires a new form to fill out and each new form is different. They can also be very complex and time-consuming if you are filling for divorce yourself.

We have a number of services tailored to help you.

Not only are we currently processing divorce 8 weeks quicker than any other online service or solicitor is reporting but we can also save you over £750.

We offer DIY, Managed and Solicitor divorce packages. All of our online divorce services are fixed fee with no hidden charges.

Contact us now on 01793 384 032 for a free consultation or you can alternatively email us today.



Order our managed divorce service today, this is our most popular service and costs just £169. Saving you over £750 compared to hight-street solicitors.

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  • Sally Hedges says:

    Hi, I want to divorce my husband of 8 years as we’ve drifted apart. Nothing major has happened for me to cite a reason for divorce, but i’m thinking of using unreasonable behaviour. These reasons are minor such as not talking to each other much and spending more time at work or at the pub… Will this be satisfactory?

  • Mark Keenan says:

    Hi Sally, in order to use Unreasonable Behaviour to get a divorce you’ll need to provide 4/5 detailed accounts of his behaviour that has caused the breakdown of your marriage. You will be able to use both of those reasons you’ve mentioned along with things such as; not sharing the same bed, socialising more with friends, not sharing the same interests etc.

    You will need to provide information on the divorce petition about the 4/5 reasons you state. Hope that helps, if you need more information, please call us for free on 01793 384 032.

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