No fault divorce - what is a joint application?

One of the biggest changes that took effect on 6 April was the introduction of joint applications for divorce. If you and your ex decide to separate you will be able to divorce together, as joint applicants, rather than one of you having to make an application for divorce or civil partnership dissolution against the other.

It is hoped that this co-operative process will encourage more amicable legal separations - a core aim of the "no fault" reforms.

How will this work in practice?

You and your ex complete the application form together. The form is simple and can be done online. You must also upload a copy of your marriage certificate and pay a court fee (currently £593). It is not possible to split the fee between you and your ex when you pay the court - whoever you name as ‘Applicant 1’ has to make the payment. You and your ex should decide between yourselves if or how you will share the cost.

The court then issues the application. You and your ex will need to confirm receipt of the proceedings within 14 days of receiving your issued application back from the court. If you applied online, this can also be done online.

You and your ex can apply together for a conditional order from 20 weeks after the application is issued. The conditional order is the interim or first divorce order.  It used to be called the decree nisi.  You are not divorced at this stage but if you and your ex have agreed a financial settlement, once you have your conditional order you can send your agreement to the court to be approved by a judge. 

It is possible for just one of you to apply for the conditional order - this might be necessary if your ex is no longer cooperating with the process. If you decide to do this your application for a conditional order will be sent to your ex so they know what is happening. You then become the applicant and they become the respondent.

Watch out - once a joint application for divorce is progressed by just one of you it is not possible to switch back to a joint application later. This doesn’t change overall timeframes, and doesn’t mean the "new" respondent can oppose the divorce, but it does shift responsibility onto the solo applicant.

After a joint application for a conditional order is reviewed by a judge it is pronounced in court. This is a procedural step and shows the judge is satisfied you are entitled to a divorce.

You and your ex must now wait six weeks and one day before applying, together, for a final order. This used to be called the decree absolute.  You can still switch to a solo application at this stage and take this step by yourself. If you do so you must give your ex 14 days’ notice of your intention to apply for the final order. Once the application is received and reviewed by the court a final order will be made. The final order confirms your marriage (or civil partnership) is officially over.

What if a joint application isn’t for me?

You can still apply for divorce against your ex as a sole applicant. You will be called the applicant, and your ex the respondent. Rather than both of you acknowledging proceedings your ex will be sent a copy of your application (by default the court does this via email). They then have 14 days to send back to the court an acknowledgement of service which simply confirms to the court that they have received your divorce application and, in the vast majority of cases, that they are content for the divorce to proceed. In sole application cases, the applicant has responsibility for applying for the conditional order and the final order. In most other respects (for example, timeframes) the process is the same.

We have a team of specialist finance and children lawyers who can help you deal with all the issues that may need to be resolved as you progress through your divorce. You can get in touch with them here

For more information on no fault divorce, check out the rest in this series of blogs on


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