Hourglass and clock in composition to suggest the passing of time

While there is no procedure in England and Wales for getting a ‘quickie’ divorce, it is important to understand the court-imposed waiting periods and the factors which often increase the length of the process. This should help you feel informed before you start the process.

20-week waiting period

In England and Wales, all divorces are subject to certain mandatory waiting periods. The first of these is immediately after you submit your application for a divorce when there is a 20-week waiting period from the time the Court processes that application before you can apply for your conditional order (which is when the Court can approve any financial agreement, and when they confirm that you are entitled to a divorce. The conditional order does not end your marriage). This period was brought into effect to encourage couples to reflect on whether they are certain about the decision to divorce. It was considered that if the process was too quick, couples might permanently end their marriages without attempting to reconcile. However, very few couples reconnect during this period and instead it usually operates as time for the parties to begin negotiating a financial agreement.

6-week waiting period

Once the 20-week period is over and you have been granted your conditional order, there is another waiting period of 6 weeks and 1 day before you can apply for your final order. However, your solicitor will usually advise you not to make your divorce final before you have a financial agreement which has been approved by the court. If your divorce is finalised before then, you will risk invalidating the parts of your agreement which relate to pensions if your ex-spouse dies before your financial agreement is made full, final and binding. This period therefore often stretches out far longer than 6 weeks and 1 day while spouses continue to negotiate their finances.

Complicating factors

If you and your ex-partner are not ready to apply for each order when each waiting period ends, then the process can last far longer than these 26 weeks. One reason for this might be that someone fails to engage in the process. If it takes weeks or months to receive a response to correspondence and requests for information, then this will inevitably lengthen the process. This is not uncommon in divorce proceedings, especially where the issues are complex.

A further reason for the process to stretch on is that your ex-partner may fail to negotiate reasonably. This is often the case in acrimonious divorces where one or both parties attribute blame to the other for the breakdown of their marriage. Where this is the case, someone may try to receive more from a settlement than they are entitled to by law and under these circumstances cases often have to go to court for the input of a judge. The court can take months to list a hearing which inevitably increases the length of the divorce proceedings.

A final reason that the process can take longer is when financial negotiations require information and cooperation from third parties. For example, receiving information from banks, pensions providers and mortgage companies for financial disclosure can take several weeks. Additionally, if you need to instruct an expert like an actuary to produce a report, this can take upwards of ten weeks.

Ultimately, if both you and your ex-partner are prompt in your communication, if you make the most of the waiting-periods to obtain any necessary disclosure and expert reports and if you both negotiate reasonably, then the process can be finished in as little as seven months. Under the law of England and Wales, this is considered a ‘quick’ divorce.


If you would like help and support please contact our family law team who will be happy to help.