Back in March 2021, our blog ‘No-fault divorce – untying the knot without playing the blame game’ talked about the long-awaited reforms being made to English and Welsh divorce law.
We explained how the campaign to modernise divorce and separation proceedings through the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill had run for several years. Championed by Resolution, the community of family justice professionals of which AGR Law is a member, Royal assent was granted in June 2020 and the new law will come into force on 06 April 2022. It’s the biggest reform of divorce law in almost 50 years.
The main changes were:
|Prior to no-fault divorce
|A reason for divorce would have been cited, blame apportioned (and in some cases evidence required) even if the spouses are on amicable terms
|Couples can now legally separate without assigning blame to either party for their relationship breaking down. Evidence is no longer required. Domestic abuse victims will no longer have to produce statements and revisit the trauma they suffered
|Apportioning blame often created unnecessary bitterness and resentment from the very beginning of the divorce process
|The process will now be less damaging to divorcing couples and their families as confrontation will be minimised and talks more constructive. This will allow them to focus on more important areas, such as children and finances
|One spouse needs to issue divorce proceedings against the other
|Couples now have the option of making a joint divorce application
|One or more of the following five reasons (also known as ‘facts’) had to be given as proof that the marriage has broken down: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or separated for two (if both agree to divorce) or five years (if one disagrees)
|Divorce will now be more reflective of why modern marriages fail. Going forward, couples only need to produce a statement saying that the marriage has broken down irretrievably
|The language used was outdated and unclear
|Terms will be simpler:
|Divorces typically take three to four months minimum if they are straight forward and both parties agree to terms. Delays, errors, contesting and overburdened courts often meant divorcing took much longer
|A period of reflection has been introduced to allow couples more time to consider their decision. It will begin on the date of application and last a minimum of 20 weeks when the conditional order can be made. There will then be at least six weeks between the conditional order and final order
|One party begins proceedings and their spouse can contest the reasons
|The concept of contesting a divorce has been removed
What is the new no-fault divorce process?
- One or both parties apply, citing that the marriage has broken down irretrievably
- After a 20-week period of reflection, the applicant or couple decide whether they wish to proceed
- The court makes a Conditional Order
- After a further six weeks the court can make a Final Order
Although the process may take around 26 weeks, it’s likely to be longer to allow for negotiations, processing and administration.
Can anyone get a no-fault divorce?
Married couples (including same sex married couples) and civil partners will be able to apply for a no-fault divorce to end their marriage or dissolution to conclude their civil partnership.
The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will amend the existing legislation around separation in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
Do I still need a divorce solicitor?
With divorcing being more amicable and less complicated, and more of the process done online (read more about that HERE), we wanted to outline our role in divorce cases and explain why it’s still crucial to have legal representation to guide you.
As lawyers representing you in a divorce case we can, through mediation:
- Prepare documents for court
- Advise on financial matters including the family home, pensions, savings and investments
- Advise you on what you are and are not entitled to and help you negotiate
- Advise disputing parents on childcare, contact and maintenance payments
If an agreement cannot be reached through mediation, we will:
- Instigate court proceedings and represent you
- Prepare cases for presentation to the judge
- Communicate with your spouse via their solicitor if conversation is not possible between you
Why is legal representation important?
Getting divorced is a highly emotional time, even if you and your spouse agree it’s the right course of action and your relationship is amicable. There is a great deal to consider, and your state of mind and any pressure from friends and family can cloud judgement. This may make it difficult for you to manage constructive conversations and deal with the practicalities, such as contact with children and paying the bills.
A divorce is legally binding. Once terms are agreed upon and you’re separated in the eyes of the law they cannot be altered, so it’s imperative to get paperwork in order and make sure every detail is considered. There are also legal consequences to changing your marital status. For example, your tax and pension may be affected.
Our experienced team deals with divorce cases every day, so will be able to support you and offer the best possible legal advice. We also understand that going through a divorce can be an exhausting and uncertain time, especially if understanding the new laws add to the feeling of overwhelm.
To find out more about no-fault divorce, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0116 340 0094