From 6 April 2022, No-Fault Divorce laws have come into force in England and Wales.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, originally passed by Parliament in June of 2020, radically transforms the experience of couples seeking to end their marriage or civil partnership. But while the mechanics of divorce are somewhat simplified, the implications and consequences remain as complex as ever. Legal advice before and during your divorce could smooth the way over many potential complications.
A radical transformation of divorce, from blame and incrimination to mutual agreement
Formerly, it was necessary to prove that the relationship had broken down and could not be saved. The law allowed 5 reasons; adultery; unreasonable behaviour (ranging from failure to contribute to living expenses, through drunkenness or drug addiction to physical violence); desertion by one party for 2 years or more; living apart for at least 2 years by mutual consent or 5 years if one party disagreed.
When one or both spouses wanted a quicker divorce, it was easier to cite adultery or unreasonable behaviour as the cause.
The new law allows couples to end their marriage jointly, removing the need for public shaming.
Under the old system, the process was generally destructive. Amicable divorce was difficult to achieve when blame was publicly aired in court. The new system not only makes this unnecessary, it actually removes “the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse”.
One spouse can apply for a divorce even if the other does not want it. It will only be possible to contest a divorce in limited circumstances
Alongside the new system comes a mandatory 20-week period from the start of proceedings to the granting of a conditional order, to provide “couples with a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconsider.” Equally, when couples are determined to divorce, it provides a window of time to work together and put into place plans for the future.
Easy to understand
The language used in divorce proceedings has also been transformed, to bring it into the 21st century and make it more accessible. Among the changes:
· Petition for Divorce is now Application for Divorce
· Petitioner is now Applicant and Joint Petitioners are now Applicant 1 and Applicant 2
· Decree Nisi is now Conditional Order
· Decree Absolute is now Final Order
How does it work?
Following the same basic order as the old system, applicants first apply for a conditional order, then wait a minimum period of 20 weeks before applying for a final order.
There is both a paper and a digital application process. The court fee of £593 remains the same.
Early legal advice
If you are considering applying for divorce, by yourself or jointly with your spouse or civil partner, we recommend seeking legal advice early on. The process of the act of divorce has been simplified to a degree, but issues such as division of assets such as property, finances and custody of children need to be arranged and agreed well ahead of the Decree Absolute being granted.
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