Concept for no fault divorce - applying for joint or sole application for divorce

More than a year has passed since the implementation of no-fault divorce law in England and Wales. This means that couples can choose to apply jointly for a divorce rather than being forced to be adversaries in divorce proceedings.

What is a joint application?

In a joint application the parties are known as Applicant 1 and Applicant 2 rather than as the Applicant and the Respondent. Applicant 1 fills in the application initially and sends it to Applicant 2 who fills out their information and then submits it to court. Once the court has issued the application, the 20 week ‘cooling-off period’ begins which applies whether the application is joint or sole.

Both parties will receive a notice of proceedings which they must acknowledge within 14 days. This acknowledgment requirement protects both parties from being subject to a fraudulent application i.e., one party making an application without the knowledge of the other party.

Once the 20-week period has passed the parties can jointly apply for a conditional order, which confirms their entitlement to a divorce. Six weeks after the conditional order has been granted the parties can jointly apply for the final order which finalises the divorce.

What is a sole application?

Before the implementation of no-fault divorce, the only option was a sole application. This is where only one party makes the application and applies for the conditional and final orders. This party is known as the Applicant and their husband or wife is the known as the Respondent.

Can I later become a sole applicant if we apply jointly?

Yes. Even if you start the application jointly, either of you can progress the application alone if you decide that this is preferable. This could be because the previously amicable relationship has broken down or because one party has decided that they do not consent to applying for the conditional or final order. To become a sole applicant in joint proceedings you need to apply to the court at either the conditional or final order application stage.

Can a sole application later become a joint application?

No. A sole application cannot become a joint application after it has been made. The reason for this is to prevent the parties from switching back and forth repeatedly during proceedings. If the application could be switched back and forth in this way, the threat of switching could be used as a bargaining tool by one spouse to apply pressure to the other.

Can one solicitor act for us both in a joint divorce application?

No. The potential for conflict prevents one solicitor from acting for both parties. Solicitors have a legal duty to act in the best interests of their client. While divorcing couples don’t always have opposing interests, they will have different interests when trying to agree a financial settlement. It follows that one solicitor cannot act for both parties.

Should I make a joint or sole application?

Joint proceedings reflect the fact that the difficult decision to divorce is often a mutual one. Applying together can help avoid an approach to divorce based on conflict and blame.

However, if you foresee your spouse not cooperating with the divorce or if you think there is a possibility that they will change their mind, it may be better to make a sole application at the outset to save both your time and your money.


If you have any questions relating to making a joint or sole application for divorce, please contact the family team on 01392 210700 or email