Divorce Lawyers

At Birkett Long, our leading team of divorce solicitors, Resolution Accredited Specialists and collaborative lawyers understand that when a relationship breaks down, you need pragmatic expert individual advice and assistance to guide you through the complex legal issues that can arise.

We will help you make important decisions regarding property, your will, money, business and childcare, when you may feel least equipped to make them.

Our family solicitors have been repeatedly acknowledged as Tier 1 in the Legal 500 and include Resolution Accredited Specialists and Collaboratively trained lawyers

We have the knowledge and experience that you need to ensure that you achieve the best outcome possible and are able to move forwards with your life whilst also ensuring that your situation is dealt with with the utmost sensitivity and respect.

How do I get divorced? The divorce process has changed

The divorce process has changed considerably. The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act 2020 (no-fault divorce) came into force on 6 April 2022.  This brought into effect the biggest change to divorce law in 50 years.
Until that date, a couple who wanted to divorce either had to have lived apart for at least 2 years or, instead, rely on the other’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour.  Now, a couple can divorce without any need to rely on a period of separation or fault, although the marriage must still have broken down irretrievably and you still cannot divorce less than 12 months from the date of the marriage.

The government hopes the changes to the law will reduce hostility in divorce and mean that divorcing couples are more likely to work together to resolve other issues, such as those relating to their children or finances.

To find out what has changed, how you can start your own proceedings and more please visit our No fault divorce family lawyers page.

Divorce and your finances

Divorce does have a significant impact upon inheritance and pension rights and it is generally recommended to ensure that financial issues are resolved prior to making an application for a Final Divorce Order. 

To find out more please visit our Financial Remedy Order and proceedings page.

What happens at an appointment with a divorce solicitor?

We understand booking to see a divorce lawyer can be scary. Click here to read an article about what happens at the first meeting with a divorce lawyer - it gives an overview of the information you will need to bring with you, how the meeting will work and what happens next.

If your marriage has broken down beyond repair and you are looking to obtain a divorce, but want to keep things friendly, take a look at 10 top tips on getting divorced amicably from a member of our family law team. There are lots of helpful articles about family and relationships, divorce and separation, children's issues and other topics on our blog.

Are there alternatives to divorce?

Whilst divorce has the effect of bringing the marriage to an end, some people do not feel ready to take that step or have moral or religious objections to divorce. In that situation, a couple might agree to simply separate but remain legally married or to seek a judicial separation.

If a decision is made to simply separate, no formal documentation acknowledging this is required, however, it is strongly recommended that the financial issues arising as a result of the separation are agreed and set out in a formal separation agreement.

What is judicial separation?

Judicial separation, by comparison with divorce, ends the legal obligation to cohabit but does not terminate the marriage itself. It is available on exactly the same grounds as divorce and is largely the same process, albeit there is only one order and not two. 

The difference between a simple separation and judicial separation is that where judicial separation has been granted, the court can make financial orders dealing with the financial aspect of separation whether by agreement in a consent order or following determination by a judge.

A nullity petition

A nullity petition is another option where the marriage is considered to be void or voidable. A marriage would be considered void if the couple were too closely related, under 16 at the time of the marriage, had disregarded certain requirements for marriage or where either party at the time of the marriage was already lawfully married or in a civil partnership. 

A marriage may be voidable (subject to a number of restrictions dealing with timing and knowledge) where:

  • the marriage has not been consummated owing to incapacity or wilful refusal
  • there was not valid consent to the marriage
  • at the time of the marriage the respondent was suffering with a sexually transmitted disease
  • at the time of the marriage the respondent was pregnant by some person other than the spouse
  • that an interim gender recognition certificate has been issued to either party since the marriage
  • the respondent is a person whose gender at the time of the marriage had become acquired under the gender recognition act 2004

Same Sex Marriage and Civil Partnership

If you are in a same sex marriage or civil partnership which has broken down, then you may wish to obtain a divorce (if married) or dissolution (if in a civil partnership) in order to bring the marriage or civil partnership to an end. 

The process is the same as if you were in a heterosexual marriage. Details around Civil Partnerships are available here: Civil partnership solicitors Family Law Birkett Long

Should you not wish to obtain a divorce or dissolution then alternatives include: 

  • nullity where the civil partnership is void or voidable
  • separation order which is the civil partnership equivalent of judicial separation. 

Any of these options also allow the court to address the financial issues arising as a result of the separation, whether by consent or following determination by a judge.

It also remains a possibility for you both to agree to separate but remain legally married or in a civil partnership. If a decision is made to simply separate, no formal documentation acknowledging this is required, however, it is strongly recommended that the financial issues arising as a result of the separation are agreed and set out in a formal separation agreement. You can visit Phoebe Trott’s blog about separation agreements here: What is a Separation Agreement?

International divorce

If you or your spouse have connections with other countries outside of England and Wales and are contemplating divorce or separation, it is extremely important that you seek urgent legal advice in relation to your options. 

In some cases it is possible that divorce proceedings may be issued in England and Wales or in another country and this can have a significant impact on the outcome of the financial issues. England and Wales are generally considered to have the most discretion and therefore offer the most generous approach to financial provision on divorce. 

Visit this page to find out more about international divorce here: international divorce solicitors.

I am not married or in a civil partnership but want to separate

The current laws of England and Wales do not offer the same rights or recognition to couples who are cohabiting, rather than being married or in a civil partnership. There is no such thing as a common law spouse, and so if you decide to separate, no formal documentation is required to give effect to this.

However, separation is still likely to raise issues with regards to how financial issues should be addressed and arrangements for any children. Bespoke legal advice from our specialist family solicitors will help ensure the best possible outcome for you and ensure that the outcome is set out within either a separation agreement or court order, as appropriate. 

Please visit our Cohabitation page for more details: Cohabitation agreement solicitors.

Contact a divorce lawyer

To find out more about the divorce process, or to talk about where to start, contact our divorce and separation solicitors in Basildon, Colchester or Chelmsford today for a no obligation, free chat on the phone.



  • Debbie Butterfield
      • 0330 818 2850
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  • Sue Catterwell
      • 0330 818 2846
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  • Marina Iskra
      • 0330 818 3248
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