How long does it take to divorce? article banner image

There are two areas that any divorce should cover off: the divorce proceeding themselves and the resolution of financial issues.


Whilst, from a practical point of view, these two areas go hand in hand it is possible to look at the divorce process in isolation.

The divorce itself can in theory be completed in less than four months. Much depends on the speed at which the court is able to process the application.

Until last year, divorce proceedings were dealt with through local courts, however in April 2015 the Regional Divorce Centres were set up to process all divorce petitions in a particular region en masse. This has led to some significant delays.

At the moment, the divorce process of itself can, at its quickest, be summarised as follows:

1.    The Divorce Petition is filed at court by the Petitioner. Within 7 days the court ought to be able to send a sealed copy of the Petition to the Respondent. It can sometimes take longer depending on the Regional Divorce Centre.

2.    The Respondent needs to complete the Acknowledgement of Service form and send it back to the court. The court must then seal this and send it out. We are finding some delays at this stage – it can often take as long as a month for this to happen.

3.    Once the sealed copy has been received by the Petitioner they can apply for the Decree Nisi. The application can be turned around in a day, however again, once it is sent to the Regional Divorce Centre it can take a little time for it to be processed. On current reckoning the period of time between Decree Nisi applications and the pronouncement of Decree Nisi is approximately one further month. It has been as long as three months within the last year.

4.    Once Decree Nisi has been pronounced the Petitioner has to wait a minimum of 6 weeks and a day before applying for Decree Absolute. This application should take less than a week for the Regional Divorce Centre to process.

The quickest period of time that one can expect the divorce to take on current reckoning would be around 4 months from start to finish. As efficiencies improve within the new system this time, this time estimate will only reduce.

Separately from the divorce, one needs to consider financial issues and it is often in relation to these that delays arise. Ordinarily, Decree Absolute is not applied for until financial matters are fully resolved and a Consent Order has been approved by the court setting out what each party is due to receive as a financial settlement.

The speed at which the entire process runs, to include the resolution of financial issues, will depend on how quickly the couple is able to progress negotiations and conclude matters.


If you have any queries with the content in this article, then please don’t hesitate to contact Andrew Barton, partner in our family team in Exeter. Please call 01392 210700 or email