What you need to know about divorcing in 2023

The first Monday back to work after the new year is dubbed ‘divorce day’ as solicitors see a rise in enquiries from unhappy couples. Reasons for this typically include stress from money worries post-Christmas, spending more time together over the festive period and too much drink leading to arguments.

Last April, the long-awaited no-fault divorce reforms became law. We thought it might be helpful to clarify the main changes to help you decide whether divorce is the right option for you.

What was the main change?

With the new no-fault divorce law, couples can now legally separate without assigning blame to either party for their relationship breaking down.

Previously, you had to be separated for two or five years or a reason had to be cited. Reasons included adultery, unreasonable behaviour and other such allegations regarding the conduct of one of the couple. This led to ill-feelings from the beginning as one person had to shoulder the blame.

Couples can now produce a statement saying that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Talks are far more constructive and focus on key areas, such as living arrangements, children and finances. Negotiations are steered firmly towards you, your spouse and your family’s futures, rather than accusing each other for the marriage breaking down.

Why was change needed?

The reforms were the biggest changes to divorce law in almost 50 years. The law now better reflects why modern marriages fail and allows those who have grown apart but remain amicable the opportunity to divorce without conflict.

The language used is also now clearer and more up-to-date. For example, ‘the petitioner’ is now known as ‘the applicant,’ the ‘decree nisi’ is now a ‘conditional order,’ and the ‘decree absolute’ is called a ‘final order.’

What are the other benefits of no-fault divorce?

The concept of contesting a divorce has been removed, so an individual can apply without the other party agreeing. This means nobody can remain trapped in a marriage they want to end, and abusive spouses are no longer able to contest a divorce as a tactic to prolong their behaviour.

Some groups were concerned that the new laws would result in divorces which hadn’t been properly considered, but couples must contemplate their decision with a compulsory period of reflection. This lasts a minimum of 20 weeks from the date of application when a conditional order will be made. There is an additional minimum six weeks between the conditional order and the final order.

Is legal representation still needed?

Even though divorcing is now more amicable and less complicated, legal representation is still needed. A divorce is legally binding, and the terms cannot be changed once they’ve been agreed upon. It’s imperative to make sure every aspect is carefully considered, and that the paperwork is in order with all the details correct.

Divorcing can be a highly emotional time. Even if you and your spouse agree it’s the best course of action and you remain friends, it still marks the end of a marriage which was likely once the happiest time of your life. It’s a huge decision to make and there is a great deal to consider. Any anxiety, pressure or opinions from friends and family may prevent you from thinking clearly, so it’s best to talk through every aspect with an experienced legal professional.

We can also guide you through the legal consequences of changing your marital status, such as possible changes to your tax and pension.

What is AGR Law’s role in divorce cases?

Unless the divorce is due to domestic abuse or a similar circumstance, we always encourage couples to plan their separation constructively through mediation. This is where we help you find a workable solution that suits both of you. The mediator won’t take sides or tell you what to do, they are neutral and there to facilitate conversation so that it keeps moving forward until terms are agreed upon.

Through mediation, we:

  • 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

As well as being able to resolve the practical elements of your divorce, we understand that the process can be an exhausting and uncertain time. Our experienced team deals with divorce cases every day, so will be able to offer emotional support to you as well as the best possible legal advice.

What if an agreement cannot be reached through mediation?

Mediation isn’t suitable for every divorcing couple, and sometimes the only solution is to go to court. We’re experienced in this and prepared to fight your corner, no matter how challenging your case may appear.

We can:

  • 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

If you’d like to find out more, email us at hello@agrlaw.co.uk or call 0116 340 0094