No fault divorce process launches 6 April 2022
On 6 April 2022, changes to the legislation on divorce will come into force, allowing a no fault divorce process, notes Andy Stout a family lawyer at Tallents Solicitors.
Changes to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (the ‘Act’) will allow couples to divorce without having to attribute any blame to one party. The hope is that this will reduce conflict during the divorce process and allow couples to instead focus on being more collaborative and constructive as they end their relationship jointly.
Key changes to the divorce process to note
Although there is no change to the ground for divorce (that the marriage has broken down irretrievably) all that is now required from the applicant is ‘a statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably’. The court must accept this statement as conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. So, no longer will couples who have been separated for less than two years have to cite adultery or make allegations about behaviour in order to obtain a divorce.
The Act also introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and application for conditional order. This provides couples with a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconsider their actions. Where divorce is inevitable, it enables couples to cooperate and plan for the future without recrimination.
In addition to sole applications, joint applications for divorce will also be possible, they will not be permissible for nullity proceedings. It will also be possible to convert a joint application into a sole application if required, to allow each party to move the process forward independently of the other. However, to prevent negotiation pressure being applied, a sole application for divorce cannot be converted to a joint application.
After 31 March 2022, in most cases it will no longer be possible to apply for a divorce under the current legislation. After 6 April 2022, the changes to the Act will apply when making a divorce application.
Can I withdraw divorce proceedings?
Yes. A sole applicant can withdraw their no fault divorce application any time before it has been served on the respondent by writing to the court. In the case of a joint application, both parties must write to the court withdrawing their applications.
Can I defend divorce proceedings?
No. Under the no fault divorce process it will no longer be possible to contest a divorce and there are no facts to dispute.
However, the changes to the divorce law will allow a respondent to challenge the divorce in limited circumstances, none of which relate to the actual breakdown of the marriage, e.g. where there is a lack of jurisdiction, the validity of the marriage is in dispute or there is some other procedural non-compliance.
In some circumstances, the final order for divorce may be delayed if the applicant has already applied to the court for consideration of their financial position after divorce. However, we would always recommend seeking legal advice in this instance.
How will divorce proceedings change?
Broadly speaking, the changes under the new no fault divorce process will be:
- One, or both parties, provide a legal statement to the court confirming that the marriage has irretrievably broken down (known as ‘the application’).
- The court will usually be responsible for service of the application and if possible, it will do this via email. The court will also need to send a notice of confirmation to the respondent’s postal address.
- The respondent needs to reply to the application within 14 days.
- There must be a period of reflection of a minimum of 20 weeks from the date the proceedings started before the conditional order for divorce can be made.
- A further period of six weeks and one day (43 days) must elapse after pronouncement of the conditional order, before the applicant can apply for a final order. A final order will end the marriage.
How are civil partnerships affected by the no-fault divorce law changes?
The law on dissolution of a civil partnership will be updated to fall in line with the new law on divorce.
Need divorce advice?
Our experienced family law solicitors are available for confidential appointments at any of our three offices in Newark, Southwell or Mansfield. We also offer a FREE Family Law Clinic on Tuesday evenings, 5–7pm, where you can call 01636 813411 to speak to a sympathetic lawyer in complete confidence.