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No-fault divorce – Your FAQs answered

In September 2020 our blog "Long-awaited divorce reforms are finally coming" explained how and why the English and Welsh divorce system is changing.

Here we bring you an update on what the Family Law reforms will mean.

Why is divorce law changing?

Bringing in no-fault divorce will mean that when a relationship has irretrievably broken down there will no longer be a need for one party to apportion blame to the other party. Many divorce solicitors and family organisations believe the adversarial stance currently taken in many divorce cases leads to contention from the outset and that couples are immediately set on a path of recrimination and resentment which can be harmful.

Also, many people believe that it should be up to the couple to decide if their relationship should end. Current divorce law requires a court to rule upon whether a breakdown is irretrievable, often based on one party's accusation of blame, and many feel this is out of step with today's societal opinions about relationships.

It is hoped that by introducing a process which allows joint applications and/or a statement of irretrievable breakdown to be enough to satisfy the court, the new divorce rules will allow couples to begin the process of divorce with clarity and composure and this will, it is hoped, lead to more pragmatic negotiations relating to other family matters such as the arrangements for children, property and finances.

Will no-fault divorce make it easier to get divorced?

There will still be a set of steps which need to be negotiated correctly in order for a marriage or civil partnership to be formally dissolved. The divorce application and response will need to be completed fully and accurately, and a strict time-frame followed. However, while it won't necessarily be 'easier' to get a divorce, the process will be simplified and some of the terminology will be changed so that the language of divorce is easier to understand.

The main differences in no-fault divorce will be that a couple can make a joint application and applicants (formerly known as petitioners) will not be required to cite one of the five facts (reasons) that are currently used to satisfy the court that marriage is over. So, as well as not being obliged to 'blame' the other party, the new process will also see the end of the provision for two years living apart with consent for a divorce and five years living apart without consent which had previously seen couples forced to remain married because one party was unwilling to accept 'blame' for the breakdown. It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce.

Is no-fault divorce a "quickie divorce"?

No, there will still be a set time frame in place before a final divorce order can be granted and you will still need to be married for at least 12 months before you can apply for a divorce.

While the timeline in no-fault divorce is yet to be officially determined, it is widely believed there will be a period of at least 20 weeks following the application before the Conditional Order (formerly known as Decree Nisi) will be granted and before an application for the Final Order (formerly Decree Absolute) may be made. It is hoped this timeframe will give couples time to reflect on their relationship, allowing both parties the opportunity to reconsider the divorce if they so wish and to obtain legal advice from a divorce solicitor if they require assistance with any other matters arising from their divorce.

Will no-fault divorce lead to more people getting divorced?

Some groups have argued that divorce law reform will undermine the sanctity of marriage and make people less willing to work at their relationships, however family organisations and divorce solicitors say that people do not divorced because it is perceived to be easy; people tend to divorce because they no longer wish to be married and altering the process of divorce is unlikely to change the number of people who feel that their marriage is at an end. However, it is hoped that no-fault divorce will increase the number of divorce matters which do not need to go to court.

In terms of statistics, it is likely that there will be a decrease in divorce numbers the closer we come to the introduction of the new divorce laws and then this will be followed by a spike in divorce applications once the law is changed. However, the statistics are likely to even out over time.

Will I need a divorce solicitor for a no-fault divorce?

You can apply for a divorce without needing the representation of a divorce solicitor, however, unless you and your former spouse can agree all the details of your breakup, including arrangements for children and what will happen to the family finances on divorce, it is a good idea to seek legal advice from an experienced family law solicitor who can help you understand your rights and help you seek a fair divorce settlement.

My spouse has behaved badly, will I still be able to cite this as a reason when we divorce?

Under the divorce law reforms the only reason required for a divorce application is that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. Many divorcing parties mistakenly believe that a spouse's bad behaviour is likely to be taken into consideration during a financial settlement, but this is not the case. Family Courts are not punitive and they are unable to offer compensation to a spouse for the other's behaviour such as adultery or neglect. The court's primary concern in divorce proceedings will be in seeking financial fairness between the parties and ensuring the welfare of any children in the relationship.

Will no-fault divorce be cheaper?

In protracted, acrimonious divorce cases, which take months or years of wrangling through the courts, the high costs are largely attributable to the amount of time, court resources and legal representation needed. If removing the aspect of blame from divorce proceedings helps parties seek more amicable, mediated agreements that don't need to go through the court system and in-turn will be much quicker to finalise, this should help to keep the associated costs down.

When will I be able to apply for a no-fault divorce?

It is hoped that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will be introduced into law in Autumn 2021. If you are considering beginning divorce proceedings you might wish to consider waiting until the new law comes into force.

Goodsells Family Law – Divorce Solicitors in London

You can contact Goodsells to discuss your divorce and seek legal advice and representation now or perhaps you would like to know whether you should wait. We understand that your circumstances are unique and pressing, and we can provide cost-effective, pragmatic, sensitive solutions for your divorce and separation issues.

To arrange an initial appointment, speak to us today by calling 020 7622 2221 or complete our online enquiry form.

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