UK Divorce: Foreign Marriage Certificate & Translation Requirements

Created: Oct 16, 2019 | Updated: Dec 1, 2020

Can I get divorced in the UK if I was married abroad? Many UK citizens ask themselves this same question. Divorce is already a daunting process, so today we’re going to clearly explain everything you need to do to reduce stress in what is a difficult time. We’ll go through the following:

  • A summary of the process for a divorce and what documents you need
  • The answer to the question 'Can I get divorced in the UK if I was married abroad?'
  • The legality regarding marriage certificate translations
  • The details of marriage certificate translations
  • How you can get your non-English marriage certificate translated

The UK Divorce Process Explained


Divorcing in England and Wales 

If you want to end a heterosexual or same-sex marriage in England and Wales, the legal procedure is to get a divorce. A married couple can file for a divorce 12 months after the wedding day[1]. The divorce process is as follows:

  • Request permission from the court to divorce by filing a divorce petition.
  • Have a completed Acknowledgement of Service form from your spouse
  • Apply for a Decree Nisi, which states there is no reason to not be granted a divorce
  • Apply for a Decree Absolute 6 weeks after your Decree Nisi has been approved

The Decree Absolute finalises the divorce.


Divorcing in Scotland

The divorce process in Scotland is different from that of England and Wales. In Scotland, you can apply for a divorce within the first year of marriage. This means you can apply for a divorce sooner in Scotland than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (see below). 

Moreover, in Scotland, a simplified divorce procedure does exist. This is where the court does not have to “rubber-stamp” the formal divorce agreement, which is known as a Separation Agreement or Minutes of Agreement. This simplified process may only take place where there are no financial disputes, and no children under the age of 16. 

Further information on divorce in Scotland can be found here.


Divorcing in Northern Ireland

Divorce in Northern Ireland is more complicated. In Northern Ireland, regardless of the reason for divorce (e.g. whether it is “no fault” or otherwise), the spouses still have to attend court to complete the process. This is unlike divorce in England, Wales and Scotland, where a simplified, “no fault” divorce can be done just with paperwork. 

You will also have to file different forms compared to the other nations in the United Kingdom. The forms and procedures must meet the requirements of:

  • The Matrimonial Causes Order (Northern Ireland) 1978,
  • The Family Proceedings Rules (Northern Ireland) 1996,
  • Civil Partnership Act 2004,
  • and any relevant EC Council Regulations.

Further information about divorce in Northern Ireland can be found here.


Documents required to apply for a divorce

There are three key documents / pieces of information required to apply for a divorce, regardless of where you are applying for a divorce. These are:

  1. The full name and address of your spouse so that the court can send them a copy of the divorce petition.
  2. Your original marriage certificate
  3. Proof of your name change, such as marriage certificate or deed poll, if your name changed upon marriage

If your marriage certificate is not in English, then you must also provide a certified translation of your marriage certificate


Can I get divorced in the UK if I was married abroad?

Yes, you can get divorced in the UK if you were married abroad. But the jurisdiction varies between the different UK countries. For England and Wales, you must meet certain criteria, like residing in England or Wales when divorce proceedings begin. It is important that you seek legal counceling, especially when divorcing in Scotland and Ireland, as the laws in place can be far from simple. 

Translating your marriage certificate 

If you got married outside the UK and your marriage certificate is not in English or Welsh, then you must obtain a certified marriage certificate translation

If your marriage certificate was issued under the Vienna Convention 1976, then it will already have an English translation in the footer. In such scenarios, you do not need a certified translation.

When procuring a certified translation, you must do so under rules established by the UK Ministry of Justice.

The rules state:

the certificate, document or certified copy is not in English (or, where the court is in Wales, in Welsh), a translation of that document certified by a notary public or authenticated by a statement of truth.


Marriage Certificate Translation in the UK

If you’re translating your marriage certificate for divorce purposes in the UK, then you need to a certified translation. This is a translation that has the signature and stamp of a translator or translation company, including the date of the signing. 

The signature and stamp mean that the translator is confirming that the translation is an accurate translation of the original marriage certificate. Furthermore, the translation can be used by official organisations and governmental bodies for procedures such as divorce and other legal proceedings. 

This process is the same for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Below are some of the ways you can obtain a certified translation for a marriage certificate:


Standard Certification:

  • This is optional and usually provided by default by translation agencies and translators.
  • A standard certification usually contains a statement from the agency or translator, that the document presented is a true and accurate translation of the original marriage certificate.
  • This is then accompanied with a signature, stamp and contact information of the translator, or a representative of the agency.
  • This however doesn’t make the translation acceptable by UK courts. The standard certification must be accompanied by a Notary Public certification or a Statement of Truth.


Statement of Truth

  • This is a mandatory requirement by law for divorce proceedings.
  • This is a statement produced by the translator, confirming that the translation is an accurate representation of the original marriage certificate
  • It will probably include:
    • The translator’s qualifications
    • contact details such as address and phone number
    • their experience
  • The statement of truth demonstrates that the translator has the right qualifications and experience to undertake the marriage certificate translation.



  • If you cannot produce a statement of truth, then the marriage certificate translation should be certified by British Notary Public.
  • The translator meets with a notary to notarise their signature. The Notary Public will then swear an oath that the translator’s statements are true.
  • Notaries do not undertake the translation or verify the accuracy of the translation, they merely certify the translator’s signature, and that the translator has certified the translation.


What Next?

A divorce can be a long-winded and upsetting process. Understanding the divorce procedure is time-consuming and expensive, let alone having to think about your marriage certificate translation. This article clearly outlines exactly what you need to do to have your marriage certificate translation accepted by UK courts.

If you’re looking for a reliable, knowledgeable translation agency that can help translayte your marriage certificate quickly and at a reasonable cost, then contact Translayte. We’re more than just translators, we have a thorough understanding of UK divorce proceedings, and our translations are accepted by UK Courts and Tribunals. 

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