The 4 stages of divorce

A couple sat on the sofa both looking hostile - potentially considering the stages of divorce.

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Divorce is a journey that no couple anticipates at the start of their marriage. Yet, here you are, potentially facing one of life’s most unexpected circumstances and now navigating the complex blend of the emotional and legal challenges that come with ending a marriage.

If you’re in this position, you’re certainly not alone. 

This month, our Family Law solicitors explore how you can make the four stages of divorce as painless as possible so that you and your ex-partner can move on with minimal stress. Broadly speaking, we can split the divorce process in the UK into four stages: the application, reflection period, conditional order and the final order. 

Let’s take a closer look…


No-fault divorces mean that one spouse or a couple jointly can apply for a divorce by simply stating that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. This removes the unnecessary finger-pointing and makes it easier to walk away from an unhappy marriage. 

Reflection period

Next, the reflection period is 20 weeks. This is provided by the Court for both parties of the divorce to reflect upon the marital breakdown. Some couples may use this time to seek marriage counselling, organise their finances or arrange any childcare agreements. 

Questions you may want to consider during the 20-week reflection period include:

– What are your collective assets and debts?

– Have you negotiated and agreed on your financial settlement?

– Have you considered your future finances?

– Do you need to create a parenting plan?

– Have you spoken to your children’s school?

– Will you be co-parenting your children?

– Do you have any pets?

– Have you stress-tested your agreements?

Conditional order (decree nisi)

Next, once the 20-week period of reflection is over, if you would still like to go ahead with the divorce – you may apply for a ‘conditional order’. The conditional order is what was known previously as a ‘decree nisi’. 

This is a legal document that entitles you to move forward with your divorce. It confirms that there is no reason that your divorce cannot go ahead and be approved.

Final order

Finally, six weeks and a day after the court issues your conditional order, you may apply for a final order. This was previously known as a ‘decree absolute’ – and the document finalises your divorce and declares that you are no longer married. 

How long do the stages of divorce take in the UK?

Following the introduction of no-fault divorces in 2022, a divorce in the UK will now take a minimum of 7 months to conclude and finalise.

There are multiple factors that could increase how long a divorce takes:

– Financial settlements

– Joint or sole applications 

– How responsive your spouse is

 The divorce process can take much longer if there are any unexpected delays or obstacles during the process. This is particularly common when a spouse is unwilling to participate in the divorce process or appears to drag it out for as long as possible. 

Divorce Solicitors in the UK: Choose DRN Solicitors to help you through the stages of divorce

At DRN Solicitors, we are experts in the field of Family Law and understand the emotional and legal complexities that come with navigating a divorce. 

We recognise that every situation is unique and requires a tailored approach to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties involved. Our team of dedicated Family Law Solicitors are here to manage your concerns, offer guidance, and lead you through the divorce process as efficiently and swiftly as possible.

Our goal is to empower you to move forward with your life, knowing that your legal matters are in capable hands.

With DRN Solicitors, you can have peace of mind that we will work tirelessly to conclude your divorce proceedings as quickly as possible, allowing you and your ex-partner to start anew with minimal stress.

For more information, please contact us on 01282 433241 or get in touch with us here.