How can I get a divorce and what might I forget?

Deciding that your marriage or civil partnership is at an end is not an easy decision. Once you have come to this decision, you will probably be aware that separation will require some life admin, but you won’t know exactly what. Rightly or wrongly, the procedural steps required to end a marriage are more long-winded than the steps required to create one.

The legal considerations that flow from a divorce can be separated out into three main strands, as follows:

  1. How can my marriage be brought to an end so that legally I am no longer a married person?
  2. How can my ex and I work out what to do with our financial resources – i.e. who gets what, and where will we all live in the meantime?

and finally if you have children:

3. What arrangements can we put in place to help our children adjust to this transition of their parents’ divorce?


1. Ending the marriage:

You can start divorce proceedings online, provided you have been married for over a year. There’s a £593 fee to apply for a divorce. The divorce process involves three main steps: 1) applying for the divorce; 2) obtaining a conditional order; and 3) obtaining a final order which is the document that legally ends the marriage. You need to wait 20 weeks from applying for the divorce before you can apply for a conditional order. You then need to wait at least 43 days (6 weeks and 1 day) after the date of the conditional order before you can apply for a final order, which ends the marriage.

2. Working out the financial arrangements:

Working out the financial arrangements and where everyone is going to live once someone has moved out of the family home are the strands that tend to take longer to resolve than the divorce itself. This is because these areas are often complex and emotive, and the law does not provide a ‘black and white’ template to apply.

Some people are able to agree between themselves what the financial arrangements will be following divorce. Other people benefit from professional help, whether from a family mediator – read the article which I authored on the benefits of family mediation here or from a family solicitor. A solicitor can offer you tailored advice on how the law applies to your situation and what the law suggests would be a fair outcome.

If you can reach a financial agreement with your ex directly, you may think that this creates a legally binding agreement, sufficient to de-link your financial ties to one another. However, this is not the case. Many people do not realise that the ability following divorce for either person to ask the family court to decide how their financial resources should be distributed between them does not end on a direct agreement being reached. This ability is only closed, and a legally binding agreement created, once you and your ex have signed a legal document called a Consent Order which has been approved by the family court.

Therefore, it is usually always advisable to instruct a family solicitor to put the agreement you have reached into a Consent Order, which can then be approved by the Family Court. It is only then that you can have peace of mind that the financial agreement you have reached with your ex is legally binding and the relevant financial claims you and your ex may have against each other have been closed.

3. Working out where everyone in the family will live and how the children will apportion their time between their parents:

Divorce alters the relationship status of parents, as they are no longer be a married couple once the divorce is finalised; however, they are still the parents of their children and that does not change. It is anticipated that children will continue to spend lots of quality time with both of their parents following divorce, provided it is safe for them to do so.

After grappling with the issues above, it is easy for other practical matters to be overlooked, as you move forward with your independent future. A handy list of things that the team at FLiP have saved clients from overlooking is set out below:


  • Notifying wider family members and friends
  • Collecting together copied addresses/Christmas card lists, phone and birthday records of friends and family
  • Updating Facebook/LinkedIn and other profiles
  • Updating any registrations with bodies such as schools, old schools, universities, clubs, charities or membership organisations


  • Post should be redirected, where needed


  • Update their tags, chips, their care, their insurance details etc

Trusts, inheritance and agency

  • Update your will
  • Remind family members to adjust wills involving your ex where adjustment is appropriate
  • Do any entitlements under family trusts need to be adjusted?
  • Are changes to powers of attorney/enduring lasting powers of attorney needed?


Think about the contents of:

  • House/garage etc
  • Other items in storage
  • Photos
  • Computer records


  • Are all utilities and insurance in the names of the person who is using the service?
  • Standing order/direct debit arrangements, as above
  • Claim for single person council tax discount where appropriate

Insurance & pension

Where necessary, adjust:

  • Nomination of life policy/pension benefits
  • Travel insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Address for receipt of pension/insurance documents
  • Run through all bank and credit card accounts, shareholdings, premium bonds and policies to make sure that all is in order and check any second credit card or accounts that may need to be cancelled
  • Membership of clubs/societies etc

Benefits, tax and other public bodies

Where necessary change:

  • Address for receipt of benefits/allocation of child benefit/tax credits
  • Address with HMRC
  • Nomination of principal private residence (for CGT exemption)
  • Passport/driving licence/doctor’s records – update address
  • Other professionals
  • Think through professional services, e.g. do you both want to continue with an existing IFA/accountant – do you need to notify them of the separation?

Change of name

  • If names are going to be changed, the paperwork required for this


Nicole Phillips is a Senior Associate at Family Law in Partnership. Nicole handles all aspects of private family law, assisting and supporting clients who are navigating divorce or separation to resolve any financial or children issues that may arise. Nicole is also a qualified family mediator. Contact Nicole at E: or T: 020 7420 5000.