19th August 2022
No-fault Divorce – what we now know
In March 2022 we wrote an article about the introduction of the new ‘no-fault’ divorce process, set to come into force on 6th April 2022. Prior to its introduction it was not entirely clear how the new process would work in practice and what issues might arise as a result of this change. However, four months in, we are now far better placed to see the impact that this monumental change in legislation has had.
Please note that although this article refers to “divorce”, the legislation also applies to dissolution of civil partnerships and separation.
The reception of the new no-fault divorce process has been predominantly positive. Not only has the change simplified the divorce process and meant that parties no longer have to have uncomfortable and potentially costly discussions about the grounds for divorce and the narrative in support of these, but also the removal of the fault-based reasons for divorce (adultery and unreasonable behaviour) under the old system has removed the acrimony that often followed as a result of divorce petitions assigning blame for the breakdown of the marriage onto one party.
What has changed?
The key differences between the new divorce process and the old system are:
- The terminology: it is now an ‘Application’ for divorce rather than a ‘Petition’, ‘Applicant’ replaces ‘Petitioner’, ‘Conditional Order’ replaces ‘Decree Nisi’ and ‘Final Order of Divorce’ replaces ‘Decree Absolute’.
- Although one party can still make a sole divorce application, the application can now also be submitted jointly with both parties as applicants (the application can be changed from a joint application to a sole application if necessary).
- What documents are sent to which party will vary depending on whether the application is a sole application or a joint application.
- A party cannot dispute the divorce application just because they don’t want a divorce – the only way to dispute the application would be on grounds of jurisdiction, validity of the marriage or procedure.
- The time period between the issuing of the divorce proceedings and the date on which the Conditional Order can be applied for has been extended to 20 weeks. Divorcing couples should therefore bear in mind that although obtaining a divorce is now more straightforward, it is still not a quick process and the timeframe from date of filing the application to obtaining the Final Divorce Order will be 6 months at the very least.
The court fee for obtaining a divorce remains the same (£593 as at August 2022), this fee will be payable by the applicant if it is a sole application or by either applicant 1 or applicant 2 if making a joint application, (the payment will be taken from one party so any agreement to split the court fee will need to be arranged between the parties beforehand).
Under the previous system there was the option on the divorce petition to request that the court should make an order for costs against the respondent but there is now no such provision in the amended divorce application, as the blame for the breakdown of the marriage is not allocated to one party. It is still possible to ask the court to order the other party to pay the costs, but only by way of a separate, formal application and the circumstances in which such an application would be successful are more limited.
Matrimonial finances and child arrangements
Divorcing couples should always give consideration to arrangements for the children and to how the finances will be divided on divorce, but it is crucial to understand that whilst there is a new system in place for the divorce application itself, the processes asking the court to make a financial order in divorce proceedings or to decide arrangements for children on divorce, remain the same. However, although there is the option of going to court to deal with the children and finances, there are also various out of court methods to assist divorcing couples in reaching an agreement without the need for unnecessary court involvement. One such process is called ‘collaborative law’. The collaborative law method requires each party to instruct a collaboratively trained lawyer and instead of going to court, the parties and their lawyers meet in round table meetings to agree arrangements without the pain, delay and significant cost of contested court proceedings.
The Family Team at Buss Murton Law LLP is headed by collaborative lawyer and member of Resolution, Melanie den Brinker. If you are contemplating divorce or are already in the process of getting divorced and would like to find out more about divorce, collaborative law or just discuss your options, we offer a free initial 30-minute meeting.
Please call 01892 510 222 to make an enquiry.