No-fault Divorce from the 6 April 2022
Divorce law changed on the 6 April 2022. It is a seismic change as you no longer have to blame your husband or wife to get a divorce. It is also harder to oppose a divorce if you don’t want a divorce. In this blog our divorce solicitors highlight the divorce changes and provide a quick guide to the essentials of no-fault divorce.
Online and London Divorce Solicitors and Family Lawyers
What is no-fault divorce?
No-fault divorce is the name being used for the new divorce law. Instead of having to show that your husband or wife committed adultery or behaved unreasonably or that you have lived separate and apart for two or five years you can now apply for a no-fault divorce.
Applying for a no-fault divorce
Under the new divorce law, it is a lot easier to apply for a divorce. To apply for a no-fault divorce, you file a divorce application and you state that your marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Unlike the old divorce procedure, you don’t need to explain why your marriage has broken down. London divorce solicitors see this as a real breakthrough as previously many separations that started off amicably enough ended up in dispute over whether the marriage had been brought to an end by the forming of the new relationship or by unreasonable behaviour going back years that had led to the adultery. It was often the classic ‘chicken and egg’ argument as it was said the adultery would not have happened but for the behaviour, so one spouse thought they were being unfairly blamed for the marriage breakdown.
The basis for applying for a divorce has also radically changed. It used to be the case, under the old divorce procedure that a husband or wife started a divorce petition and the other responded. If you are contemplating a no-fault divorce, you now have three options:
- You can apply jointly for a no-fault divorce with your husband or wife or
- You can apply for the divorce as a single applicant or
- Your husband or wife can apply for the divorce as a single applicant.
If you apply for a divorce jointly with your spouse you are referred to as applicant one and applicant two. If you make the application, you are referred to as the applicant and your husband or wife is referred to as the respondent.
The no-fault divorce four stage Court process
Divorce solicitors have been inundated with enquiries about the no-fault divorce process. It can be broken down into four stages:
- Apply for a divorce – this can be a joint or single application. There is then a twenty week wait under Court rules.
- The applicant confirms they want to go ahead with the divorce.
- The Court makes a conditional divorce order – this used to be referred to as the decree nisi of divorce.
- The applicant applies for the final divorce order – this used to be referred to as the decree absolute of divorce. There has to be a six week gap between the conditional divorce order and your application for the final divorce order.
Is a no-fault divorce the same as a quickie divorce?
London divorce solicitors say no-fault divorces are not quickie divorces. However, the new divorce rule changes are welcomed as it makes the divorce process less acrimonious so you can concentrate on agreeing parenting arrangements or on reaching a financial settlement.
A no-fault divorce will still take about six months from start of the divorce proceedings to the final divorce order. The six month timeframe is not guaranteed as there may be Court delays in processing paperwork. The six month timescale is therefore more of a guide and estimate.
No-fault divorce and child custody and contact
The changes in divorce law do not change children law but they hopefully make it easier for parents to agree on custody and contact arrangements after their separation or divorce. That is because parents may not get side-tracked into an acrimonious split as they no longer have to blame their husband or wife in order to get a divorce.
If you can't reach an agreement on residence and contact for your children then either you or your former partner can still apply to Court for a child arrangement order to set out the living and contact arrangements for your children.
Although you may have had a no-fault divorce you can still raise unreasonable behaviour allegations in children law and child arrangement order applications, if the allegations are relevant. For example, if there was domestic violence in the relationship and you are worried about your spouse’s temper if they are looking after the children on their own because they have anger management issues.
No-fault divorce and financial Court orders
The new no-fault divorce process does not change the way you get a financial court order. The process remains:
- If you are able to reach a financial settlement by agreement you can both ask the Court to approve a financial consent order.
- If you can't reach a financial settlement by agreement either one of you can apply to Court for a financial The Court will list the financial application for a first directions appointment and make orders for standard financial disclosure. At the first financial appointment hearing the Court can order additional disclosure and the valuation of assets, such as the family home or business. There is then a financial dispute resolution hearing to encourage you to reach an agreed financial settlement. If you are unable to reach a financial settlement, there is a third hearing, referred to as the final hearing, where the judge decides the financial settlement and makes a financial court order.
The fact that you are using the no-fault divorce process should not affect the amount you receive or pay as a financial settlement. That’s because even before the divorce law change behaviour was rarely a factor in the amount or nature of the financial settlement. Instead, other factors were and remain important, such as whether you have children under the age of eighteen, the length of your marriage, your standard of living during the marriage and your earnings capacity.
In summary, no-fault divorce procedure is better for most divorcing couples but there is no change to children law or financial settlement procedure.
Online and London Family Law Solicitors and Divorce Lawyers