No-Fault Divorce – 6 April 2022

It’s been a long time in the making, but no-fault divorce has arrived. From today, couples will finally be able to proceed with a divorce without placing blame. In readiness for this historic change to the law, we look at what it will mean for couples starting the process of divorce.

Why is the change happening?

No-fault divorce has been the subject of a campaign that has attracted the attention, support and passion of family lawyers for many years, with countries like Australia notably being way ahead of the curve by implementing provision for these divorces in 1975.

The current rules are widely considered to create a ‘blame game’: one person submits that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’, but is required to blame the other or wait for a period of two or five years – too long when people are keen to move on with their lives.

no-fault divorce

This means that couples often begin the process of divorce acrimoniously and in conflict with each other, which can lead to the process taking longer and the couple incurring additional costs. This can in turn be detrimental to the relationship, and the progress of the divorce.

No-fault divorces mean that people will no longer have to blame the other person; the fact that one person (or even both) believe the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down will be enough, ending the blame game for good.

Who can apply for a no-fault divorce?

Any person will be able to apply for a no-fault divorce, provided they have been in a valid marriage or civil partnership for over one year.

The new process also allows the couple, together, to apply for the divorce by submitting a joint application and statement.

What is the new process for a no-fault divorce?

The divorce application can be submitted online by one person, or the couple jointly, giving notice that their marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. The fact that the petition is being submitted is evidence enough of this break-down.

Because of this, the divorce application can only be disputed on very limited grounds, such as the invalidity of the marriage itself.

After submitting the application, and the other person's acknowledging receipt of it, there will now be a 20-week “cooling off” period in which the couple must wait before they can apply for the first of two divorce orders that the court will make, now called the Conditional Order. Once six weeks have passed since the Conditional Order was granted, a further application can be made for the Final Order, bringing the marriage or civil partnership to an end.

Will a no-fault divorce affect financial or children matters?

As with the current process, financial matters are dealt with separately to the divorce itself and it is extremely uncommon for the reasons for divorce to have an impact on their resolution.

However, allowing couples to start the process without blaming one another may facilitate less antagonistic discussions and negotiations, enabling them to achieve a resolution in a more collaborative manner. Marjha Golding-Evans, Partner at RDP and Head of the Family team, is a Resolution member, and is committed to helping clients achieve a dignified and amicable outcome to their divorce and, as far as possible (not least when there are children involved), seeking to try and preserve ongoing family relationships. For many, no-fault divorces will unquestionably assist clients and their trusted advisors alike to achieve a cordial outcome.

It will remain important for couples to formalise financial arrangements, as it gives both parties finality on their financial separation and the ability to move on with their lives apart. If these arrangements can be made by agreement, a Financial Order by Consent can be drafted and submitted to the court after the Conditional Order has been granted.

Will a no-fault divorce be quicker?

Whilst the process is generally considered to have been streamlined, the actual process of no-fault divorce will take a minimum of 26 weeks, and that is before factoring in the administration and processing time of the courts.

It is hoped, however, that removing the need to blame each other removes a hurdle that can often take some time (and cost) to overcome.

Will a no-fault divorce cost less?

The cost of a divorce application remains the same, with the court requiring a fee on submission of the application.

Again, it is hoped that by allowing a couple to start their divorce on an amicable basis, without having to blame each other, it may be that other matters such as financial settlements and children matters can continue on that basis too, reducing the costs that can come with disagreements and contested proceedings.

Top tips when considering divorce

  1. Sometimes things aren’t as simple as they seem; getting legal advice at an early stage in the process can help you resolve and formalise matters, allowing you to move forward in a way that works for you both.
  2. Think about what you want to achieve, so that your family lawyer can help you find the most appropriate and practical way forward.
  3. If you aren’t ready to proceed with finalising your divorce, consider whether you need to formally deal with your matrimonial finances or child arrangements in the meantime. Your family lawyer can assist with this, and explain how such an agreement can be taken forward if you choose to divorce in due course.

At RDP, we are here to help you. If you would like to talk to a member of our Family team about moving forward with your separation and divorce, please give us a ring on 01633 413500 or send us an email here.

 

Written by Marjha Golding-Evans, Partner and Head of Family, and Hannah Curtis, Solicitor.

Marjha and Hannah have recently been shortlisted for Family Team of the Year at the Wales Legal Awards. Find out more here.