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No Fault Divorce – What does this mean for separating families?

No Fault Divorce – What does this mean for separating families?

No fault divorces are to come into effect in England and Wales in April this year. This is the biggest shake up of the divorce laws in 50 years. This change means that couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of the marriage in order to get divorced without waiting for 2 years.

Currently, the only way divorce proceedings are based on the petitioner (the person asking for the divorce) proving one of the five facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion of two years
  • Separation of two years with both agreeing to the divorce
  • Separations for five years

The new no fault divorce procedure will update the divorce process, bringing it into the 21st century, with the aim of trying to avoid confrontation where possible and reducing its damaging effect on children and families as a whole, and simplifying the process more generally.

Under the new procedure if one person in the marriage wants to divorce, they can go ahead even if the other person objects, but without apportioning blame. The couple sign a joint or sole statement that the marriage has broken down and cannot be saved. This statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage will be conclusive evidence for the court to make an order for divorce.

What is the new process for divorce?

Great news - the divorce procedure has been simplified and the previous archaic language has been modernised, making it easier to understand the process.

The first stage of the divorce known as the “Decree Nisi” will be changed to the “Conditional Order” and the final stage currently referred to as the “Decree Absolute” will be referred to the “Final Order”.

A new minimum time period of 20 weeks will be introduced. Meaning that 20 weeks must elapse from when the divorce application is filed with the Court, before the parties can apply for the Conditional Order. This allows both parties time to agree practical arrangements surrounding the separation and gives a period of “meaningful reflection”. Once 20 weeks has taken place a Conditional Order can be granted by the Courts.

From the Conditional Order, there is an additional 6 week period before a Final Order can be granted, severing the marriage. In theory, the whole process could take 26 weeks. However, as of now, the parties will be advised to delay an application to make the Conditional Order into a Final Order, until they have resolved the financial aspect of their divorce.

This reform to the divorce process will enable couples to focus on positive uncoupling rather than allocating blame, particularly when it is a mutual decision to separate and there are children involved.

What does this mean for me?

The new no fault law will be available to use from 6 April 2022.

You may be wondering whether to wait for the no fault divorce or to start divorce proceedings now. There is a lot to consider before issuing proceedings and it is best to get advice early on in the process. You can obtain expert advice from our specialist lawyer Rachael Chadwick on 01252 733 733 who can support you on all areas of Family Law.

This article was written by Clifton Ingram Solicitors (incorporating Bells Solicitors)

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