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Divorce rights of a woman in the UK

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What are my rights as a woman when getting divorced in the UK?


To women getting divorced: you want to know your rights and to be protected. This article discusses the divorce rights of a woman in the UK.




  1. A very brief history: divorce rights
  2. Divorce statistics in the UK
  3. Can I get a divorce in the UK?
  4. How do I prove that my marriage is beyond repair?
  5. New divorce act coming in April 2022
  6. What are my rights as a woman when getting divorced?
  7. Where can I find a great divorce solicitor?


1. A very brief history: divorce rights


In 1857 the Civil Court allowed women to petition for divorce for the first time in the UK. Before this, mostly the rich and almost exclusively men were able to initiate a divorce. With this new act, men could demand a divorce with a claim of adultery. Women on the other hand could only seek a divorce on the grounds of adultery (which had to be proved) combined with another offense, desertion, or incest for example.


2. Divorce statistics in the UK


  • The divorce rate is currently 42%.
  • Over half of divorces occur within the first 10 years of marriage. 
  • Women have been filing for divorce more often than men since 1949. The highest percentage so far occurred in 1992; out of those petitioning for divorce, 72% were women and 28% were men. 
  • People in their 40s tend to get divorced more often than any other age group.
  • People who enter into a 2nd marriage are one-third less likely to get divorced.


3. Can I get a divorce in the UK?


The fee to apply for a divorce is £593 pounds. In order to carry out divorce proceedings, your marriage needs to be legally recognised in the UK. The UK also needs to be your permanent home or the permanent home of your spouse. You need to have been married for at least one year, and you must prove that your marriage is beyond repair.


4. How do I prove that my marriage is beyond repair?


As it stands right now (March 2022), a couple seeking a divorce in the UK needs to prove that the marriage has irrecoverably broken down. A couple can prove this in at least one of the following ways:


Unreasonable behaviour 


Unreasonable behaviour includes physical abuse, verbal abuse, domestic violence, refusal to pay in shared living expenses, and being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.




One or both of the people in the marriage had sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex within the last 6 months.


Separated for 2-5 years


You can apply for a divorce in the UK if you’ve been separated for at least two years and both people in the marriage agree to a divorce.


You can apply for a divorce after five years of separation even if one person in the marriage doesn’t want to divorce.




Desertion occurs when one person in the marriage has left and been away for at least two years.


5. New divorce act coming in April 2022


The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into effect on the 6th of April 2022. This new act will allow couples to divorce without placing blame on either person. The goal of this act is to reduce conflict when ending a marriage; it has the potential to provide a no-fault divorce. This is the biggest change divorce law in the UK has seen in the past fifty years. 


Under the new system of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, a divorce will take a minimum of six months to finalise. A cooling-off period of 20 weeks will be implemented to give the couple seeking divorce time to reflect on their decision. After the 20 week cooling-off period, a conditional order will be supplied and six weeks after this, the final order will be issued officially completing the divorce.


Another change this new act brings is that the couple wanting a divorce can submit joint applications. Before, only one person could file for divorce emphasising the intent to divorce with blame.


6. What are my rights as a woman when getting divorced?




In most divorce cases, you are entitled to half of the money. The courts ensure that women and children are financially protected in a divorce. Spousal maintenance may be required for a period of time depending on the couple’s financial situation.




If you and your spouse have a matrimonial home, even if your name is not on the ownership contract, you have the right to live there at least until your divorce is complete and you’ve received official divorce documentation. 




If you have children, doing what is best for them is vitally important. If the children legally belong to both people in the divorce, each person has a right to the children. If you both agree on an arrangement for the kids, that is a wonderful thing, but if not, a judge will intervene. 


If you come to an agreement for the children, it’s not mandatory to fill out any paperwork. You may choose to write the agreement down and both of you sign it for a record. If you desire to make the agreement legally binding, a solicitor can help with that.


If at first you can’t agree, a mediator may be able to help. A mediator will counsel you on reaching an agreement on the details of your children such as where the children will live, how often and at what times they will see each parent, and the arrangement of finances for the children.


After seeking help and you still can’t agree, you will need to apply for a court order. You will most likely need to attend a court appointment and several hearings, but before the court makes a decision, it might ask you to see a mediator again for one last attempt to reach an agreement before the legal proceedings continue.


Because every couple’s situation is complex and unique, one law fits all does not exist. Each divorce is treated as specific and will be determined on a case-by-case basis.


7. Where can I find a great divorce solicitor?


Welink Legal can connect you with a lawyer who specialises in divorce. View our list of divorce lawyers. 


Alternatively, here are three brief bios to get you started:


Breslin Solicitors


Breslin Solicitors in Bradford specialises in divorce law. This firm offers everything from legal advice for domestic abuse to finding the best solutions for children of divorcing parents.


Alliance and Cooper Solicitors 


Located in Manchester, Alliance and Cooper Solicitors offers a free initial consultation to discuss your divorce. The solicitors at this firm are experts in divorce and family law.


Sean Middleton


Sean Middleton in Nottingham is an expert in conflict resolution and divorce law. With almost 30 years of experience, Sean Middleton will provide the necessary legal services to make your divorce smoother.

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