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Divorce and Civil Dissolution

Legal definition of divorce

A divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage by the judgment of a court. You can apply for a divorce in England or Wales if you’ve been married at least a year and your relationship has irretrievably broken down, as long as your marriage is legally recognised in the UK and you have a permanent home in England or Wales.

The process

  1. File an application for a divorce (formerly called a petition)
    Either or both of you (jointly) must apply to the court for a divorce, confirming that marriage has irretrievably broken down
  2. Conditional order of divorce (formerly a decree nisi)
    As long as service of the application has occurred either the applicant, or one of you (if the original application was joint), can apply for a conditional order of divorce as long as 20 weeks have passed since the original application.
  3. Final order of divorce (formerly a decree absolute)
    After a conditional order is granted you must wait six weeks before you can apply for a final order. The final order is binding and officially ends your marriage.

If a respondent to a divorce, or one of joint applicants, wants to delay the other party from applying for a final order then they may be able to make a request to the court to achieve this until financial issues have been sorted out.

Responding to an application for a divorce

If your husband or wife has applied for a divorce, you will receive an application for a divorce from the court along with a notice of proceedings form and an acknowledgement of service form.

If you applied jointly then you will both be given notice of the proceedings, which you will need to acknowledge.

Our divorce lawyers can advise you on your full range of options and offer you strategic advice on what to do next.

Civil partnership dissolution

The process and legal requirements for the dissolution of a civil partnership are exactly the same as for a divorce. A civil partnership must have existed for at least a year.  The party who initiates the dissolution (and it could be both) must declare that the civil partnership has irretrievably broken down, and financial settlements for the dissolution of civil partnerships are determined in the same way as they are in divorce proceedings.

Cost options

Everyone’s situation is different and the costs involved will depend on your particular circumstances. At Gaby Hardwicke it is our policy to discuss the various options and likely costs with each of our clients at the very outset. If you do instruct us, we will endeavour to keep the costs of your matter as transparent as possible and keep you informed of any likely changes to our original estimate, which means you remain in control of the process throughout. Find out more about costs and your First Consultation.


Our policy is to explore all possible avenues when dealing with divorce and relationship breakdown. Dispute resolution (DR) is an amicable alternative that can replace expensive, often hostile court proceedings with open, honest discussion, negotiation and agreement.

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To discuss how we can help you email or call one of our offices:

Eastbourne: 01323 435900

Bexhill: 01424 735000

Hastings: 01424 457500