How Long Does It Really Take to Get Divorced?

Originally when people got divorced, they could issue their divorce petition in any county court in England and Wales that dealt with family work. However 11 regional divorce units were launched in 2015 with the intention of speeding up the divorce process. They promised a turnaround time of 48 hours to deal with work coming in. In theory the benefits of centralised and specialist divorce centres were to include saving costs, increasing efficiency, minimising fraud and above all taking the pressure away from the county courts that would deal with many other areas. Designated Legal Advisors were now able to approve uncontested applications for decrees nisi.  

In practice however, the regional divorce units have proved to be highly inefficient in certain areas. London and the South-East of England (which have a population of approximately 17 million people) are served by one divorce centre at Bury St Edmunds which replaced approximately 45 divorce county courts in this area.

The Law Society Gazette recently reported some statistics from HM Court and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) that confirmed what many practitioners suspected would happen – Bury St Edmunds suffered delays in 2018 which reached a record high. The average time from issuing of a divorce petition to decree nisi increased by 17 percent, to an average 195 days. In some cases it was taking 373 days from the issue of a divorce to the pronouncement decree absolute. This is an increased delayed of 9 percent in comparison to 2017.

It is not only the Bury St Edmunds Divorce Unit that is suffering from delays. As a practitioner in Birmingham our closest divorce centre is the West Midlands Divorce Unit, who are also struggling to turnaround divorces promptly, to the extent that they are now outsourcing work to Bradford of all places.

So what is being done to combat the issue? Well, staff members at Bury St Edmunds divorce centre have been increased. It is hopeful that the West Midlands divorce unit adopt the same approach, because at the moment the promise of creating an efficient network of specialist divorce courts has not been delivered.

It a nut shell, if you are considering issuing an application for divorce it may be worth doing it sooner rather than later because you may be waiting longer that you think for the process to complete. Please contact me on 0121 233 2042 or email me at if you would like any more information.