Upon DNA damage, cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) are typically inhibited to block cell division. In many organisms, however, it has been found that CDK activity is required for DNA repair, especially for homology-dependent repair (HR), resulting in the conundrum how mitotic arrest and repair can be reconciled. Here, we show that Arabidopsis thaliana solves this dilemma by a division of labor strategy. We identify the plant-specific B1-type CDKs (CDKB1s) and the class of B1-type cyclins (CYCB1s) as major regulators of HR in plants. We find that RADIATION SENSITIVE 51 (RAD51), a core mediator of HR, is a substrate of CDKB1-CYCB1 complexes. Conversely, mutants in CDKB1 and CYCB1 fail to recruit RAD51 to damaged DNA CYCB1;1 is specifically activated after DNA damage and we show that this activation is directly controlled by SUPPRESSOR OF GAMMA RESPONSE 1 (SOG1), a transcription factor that acts similarly to p53 in animals. Thus, while the major mitotic cell-cycle activity is blocked after DNA damage, CDKB1-CYCB1 complexes are specifically activated to mediate HR.