We present a finite element method with a finite thickness embedded weak discontinuity to analyze ductile fracture problems. The formulation is restricted to small geometry changes. The material response is characterized by a constitutive relation for a progressively cavitating elastic–plastic solid. As voids nucleate, grow and coalesce, the stiffness of the material degrades. An embedded weak discontinuity is introduced when the condition for loss of ellipticity is met. The resulting localized deformation band is given a specified thickness which introduces a length scale thus providing a regularization of the post-localization response. Also since the constitutive relation for a progressively cavitation solid is used inside the band in the post-localization regime, the traction-opening relation across the band depends on the stress triaxiality. The methodology is illustrated through several example problems including mode I crack growth and localization and failure in notched bars. Various finite element meshes and values of the thickness of the localization band are used in the calculations to illustrate the convergence with mesh refinement and the dependence on the value chosen for the localization band thickness.