Landmark reforms introducing no-fault divorce came into force in April 2022, marking the biggest shake up in divorce law for more than half a century.
Our family law team at Neale Turk Solicitors have been looking forward to these changes and we have already seen an immediate shift in focus, with couples now able to concentrate on the more important areas of separation, such as finances or children, rather than deciding which party will ‘officially’ take the blame for the divorce.
Although this article discusses divorce, the same no-fault rules applies to the dissolution of civil partnerships.
Who can apply?
One partner (sole application), or both acting together (joint application), can apply for divorce, without having to give a reason or apportion blame.
The application needs only to detail that there has been an “irretrievable breakdown” in the marriage. There is no longer a need to describe the facts by citing adultery, examples of “bad” behaviour, or periods of separation.
There is a minimum 20-week period between starting proceedings and applying for a conditional order, the first certificate in the two-part process. There is then a further six-week period before the divorce will be granted.
The rationale behind the enforced waiting period is to provide couples with time for reflection as well as a greater opportunity to agree practical arrangements before the divorce is finalised.
What if you do not agree to a divorce
A fundamental change in the new divorce system is that there is no longer any means of defending a divorce (albeit that this happened very rarely in practice).
A divorce application can still be challenged, but only on the basis either that the marriage wasn’t valid or that the court does not have jurisdiction; in other words, an individual can no longer argue that the marriage has not irretrievable broken down.
The current court fee is £593 and, if you decide to use a solicitor, their costs will be on top.
Under the old divorce procedure, it was common for a person applying for the divorce to ask the court to make an order that their partner pay their costs.
Under the new procedure, it is expected that the costs of divorce are agreed between the parties.
With this mind, we suggest that costs are always agreed and the funds paid to the relevant partner prior to making the application as it certainly would be an unusual case for cost to be pursued under the new regime.
At Neale Turk Solicitors our family law team has a wide range of experience in family law and relationship issues and can efficiently guide you through all areas of family difficulties, including separation issues. We are members of Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who subscribe to a Code of Practice which is geared towards encouraging a constructive and non-confrontational approach in all family matters. If you have any concerns or queries, please feel free to contact Andrew or Louisa for a free initial appointment.