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The biggest shake up to divorce laws in 50 years – but how does it affect you?

April 7, 2022

You may have seen the news that the biggest reforms to divorce law since 1973 happened on 6 April 2022 with the start of the ‘no fault’ divorce BUT how will it affect you if you’ve reached the decision that your marriage has irretrievably broken down?

What is a no-fault divorce?

Family solicitors have been campaigning to change the divorce laws in England and Wales for years as the profession felt the rules were out of date; this was highlighted in the case of Owens v Owens in 2018.  In 2019 the government confirmed it would introduce a “no fault” divorce and this came into force on 6 April 2022. The “no fault” divorce means that, instead of blaming the other person or waiting years under the current system, couples will have the option of getting divorced without having to assign fault to one person. It is hoped that the end of the ‘blame game’ will reduce conflict for couples allowing them to focus on important issues like their children, property and financial matters. It is hoped it will make it easier for divorcing couples to separate amicably.

Our experienced family solicitors are here to guide you through this new process and ensure that you feel supported and fully understand your options. If you want to discuss your relationship breakdown and next steps in confidence, please speak to one of our family solicitors today.

How long will a no fault divorce take?

The new system will see divorces taking a minimum of 6 months but in reality it will be a little longer. There are fixed periods of time built into the new divorce process that cannot be reduced. Once a divorce application has been issued there is a ‘period of reflection’ of 20 weeks. The idea of the period of reflection is to allow people to consider their decision and work through differences to see if they can reconcile but if the parties wish to divorce it could also be used to reach a financial settlement and resolve arrangements for the children. The Family Court can only grant a Conditional Order (previously known as decree nisi) once 20 weeks have passed since the divorce application has been issued.

The last stage of the divorce is when the Applicant applies for a Final Order (previously known as a decree absolute). The Applicant has to wait a minimum of 6 weeks between the Conditional Order and the Final Order.

This application is often delayed whilst the financial arrangements are agreed or any court application for a financial order is finalised and approved by the Family Court.

How do I deal with the finances in a no-fault divorce?

The no fault divorce process only brings the marriage to an end; it does not end your financial ties to each other. Its really important that you deal with finances at the same time as the divorce. If you do not do this you could risk losing out, such as in relation to pensions, or you could risk the other person making a claim years after the divorce has been made final. There are different ways of resolving the financial matters and no matter which route, mediation, negotiation or court proceedings, any financial settlement agreement reached should always be turned into a court order to ensure it is enforceable. Our solicitors can help when marriages breakdown and can guide you through the process to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome. Speak to one of our qualified solicitors today on 01204 377600.

Can we apply jointly for a divorce?

Under the old rules only one person out of the couple could apply for divorce, they would then be known as the Applicant and the other person would be known as the Respondent, but this has all changed.

From 6th April 2022 a divorcing couple can apply for a no-fault divorce together; if a couple decides to do this it will be known as a joint divorce application. It is not just the initial application that can be made together, one or both of the parties can apply for the next stages, the conditional order (currently called the decree nisi) and the final order (currently called the decree absolute), and this can be done whether or not the original application was made by one of the parties or made jointly. This is the first time in family law history that a solicitor can be asked to lodge a divorce application for both parties.

If you feel that applying together for a divorce best suits your circumstances give our specialist divorce solicitors a call our family team on 01204 377600.

What if I have already started going through a divorce?

Don’t worry! If you have already issued a divorce petition there should be nothing in the changes that stops it from continuing. If you are worried speak to one of our family solicitors today on 01204 377600 or email familydepartment@afglaw.co.uk