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Background information

Background information


Divorce is the ending of a marriage on the ground that it has irretrievably broken down. Dissolution is the same, but for a civil partnership.

When can you get a divorce or dissolution?

You may only apply for a divorce or dissolution after you have been married or in a civil partnership for at least one year.


If there are going to be financial or children issues to sort out as a result of the divorce or dissolution, you should try and agree these issues with your spouse or partner. If you can't agree, you will be required, with few exceptions, to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), before you can apply for any financial order or a Child Arrangements Order.

The MIAM is intended to help you consider whether mediation might be suitable in your circumstances to resolve the issues. Mediation is where qualified mediators help you both to reach your own agreement. A mediator does not tell you what to agree on. You are free to negotiate without the fear that it might count against you later.

Courts that can hear divorces and civil partnership dissolutions

You will start your divorce or civil partnership dissolution in a Regional Divorce Centre (DC) for your area. You will use the same DC to issue any financial remedy or other proceedings relating to that matter. Most divorces and civil partnership dissolutions are heard in the DC where they were issued. Each DC also has various Hearing Centres where hearings can take place. The DC will decide and advise you where the hearing will take place, if that becomes necessary, and what level of judge will hear the application. Mostly the Family Court sits in county and magistrate's court buildings.

If you also apply for a financial order, you will issue your application in the same DC where you issued your divorce/civil partnership dissolution/(judicial) separation application and it will be finalised there if it is by consent. However, if your spouse/civil partner contests it, the DC will forward the financial order application to your local hearing centre to be dealt with there. You will use a Form A to start your financial order application and on that you'll indicate which local hearing centre you prefer to hear the application if it is contested. You can locate the DC for your area and the various courts that deal with divorces and dissolutions by using the HMCTS Court and tribunal finder.

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