If you cannot agree

If you’ve got help and still cannot agree then you’ll need to apply for a court order before you go to court.

You must show you’ve attended a meeting about mediation first - except in certain cases (there’s been domestic abuse, for example).

You may have to attend a court appointment and go to a number of court hearings.

Before the court makes a decision, it might ask you try mediation again or go on a course to help you resolve issues.

Types of court order

The type of court order you need depends on what you’ve been unable to agree on. You can apply for more than one court order.

Arrangements for your child

A ‘child arrangements order’ decides:

  • where your child lives
  • when your child spends time with each parent
  • when and what other types of contact take place (phone calls, for example)

‘Child arrangements orders’ replace ‘residence orders’ and ‘contact orders’. Parents with these orders do not need to re-apply.

Find a solicitor if you need legal advice.

Your child’s upbringing

A ‘specific issue order’ is used to look at a specific question about how the child is being brought up, for example:

  • what school they go to
  • if they should have a religious education

You can also apply for a ‘prohibited steps order’ to stop the other parent from making a decision about the child’s upbringing.

Who can apply

The child’s mother, father or anyone with parental responsibility can apply for a court order.

Other people, like grandparents, can apply for these court orders, but they’ll need to get permission from the courts first.

  1. Step 1 Get support and advice

    You can get support or counselling to help you through the divorce process.

    1. Get support and advice from Relate
    2. Find a counsellor on Counselling Directory
  2. Step 2 Check if you can get divorced

  3. Step 3 Make arrangements for children, money and property

  4. Step 4 Apply for a divorce

  5. Step 5 Apply for 'decree nisi'

    You need to apply for a 'decree nisi' and give the court more information about why your marriage has broken down.

    1. Apply for a decree nisi
  6. Step 6 Finalise your divorce

    You need to apply for a 'decree absolute' to finalise your divorce. You'll have to wait 6 weeks and 1 day from the date of your decree nisi.

    1. Apply for a decree absolute

    Once the court approves your decree absolute, they'll send you both a copy of it and your divorce will be complete.

  7. Step 7 Report that your circumstances have changed

    You also have to tell other government organisations that you're getting divorced if: