What is No Fault Divorce?
On April 6 2022 new legislation in England and Wales came into force introducing a new system of no fault divorce.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020:
- Allows joint applications for divorce, civil partnership dissolution and judicial separation. Applicants can still apply on their own (a sole application).
- Ends the need to state one of the five facts or ‘grounds’ for divorce – adultery, behaviour, desertion, living apart for two or five years.
- Introduces a single requirement for a statement of ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the relationship.
- Requires the respondent to a sole application to respond within 14 days.
- Removes the respondent’s ability to dispute (formerly defend or contest) the divorce or dissolution.
- Only allows disputed divorce/dissolution on grounds of jurisdiction, validity of the marriage/partnership, or fraud and procedural non-compliance.
- Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks between the divorce application being issued and being able to apply for the conditional order (which replaces decree nisi).
- Does not change the current requirement of six weeks and one day between the conditional order and final order (previously decree absolute).
How to get a divorce
For those who are eligible to get a divorce in the UK, the process in England and Wales is as follows:
- Application: Complete a D8 application form requesting a divorce or civil partnership dissolution. This can either be on a paper form sent by post or via the Gov.UK digital service online. You will be able to apply yourself (as a litigant in person) or you can appoint your divorce solicitor to act on your behalf.
- Sole or joint application: You will be asked whether the application is being made solely (you alone) or jointly (with the full knowledge and participation of your spouse/civil partner). In a sole application, you will be the applicant and the other party will be the respondent. In a joint application, one party will be applicant 1 and the other will be applicant 2.
- Personal details: As a sole applicant you will need to complete the details about yourself and the other party (respondent) – you will have the option to keep your details confidential so that the respondent is not able to view your address and phone numbers, etc. On a joint application, both parties must fill in their own details.
- Details of the marriage: You will need to provide a marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate.
- Jurisdiction: You will need to prove that you are eligible to be divorced in England or Wales.
- Irretrievable breakdown: You will need to state that you are seeking divorce or dissolution because your marriage/civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. This statement alone will enable the court to make the order for divorce or dissolution.
- Other matters: You will need to tell the court about previous matters relating to your marriage or civil partnership, such as child proceedings or a previous application for divorce/dissolution. You will need to tell the court of any other orders you wish to apply for, perhaps in relation to money, property, and/or children (even if you and applicant 2 or the respondent agree about these things, it is advisable to seek court orders to make the agreements legally binding).
- Statement of Truth: The statement of truth is your completion and signing of the application. In a joint application, applicant 2 will need to sign this as well.
- Serving the application: A sole applicant can choose how they wish the respondent to receive the divorce application. The default method will be via email or by post if the respondent’s email address is not known. If you do not know the address of the respondent, you will need to complete form D11 which enables service via email alone. You can choose to arrange service of the application yourself (this is the default for a respondent who lives overseas); however, there is a specific process and timeframe for handling the service of divorce papers and any deviation could cause complications with the divorce process.
- Responding to an application: Respondents to a sole application have 14 days to respond. They will complete a D10 form. Disputes on the grounds on grounds of jurisdiction, validity of the marriage/partnership, fraud or procedural non-compliance must be made on form D8B and submitted within 21 days of receiving the divorce/dissolution application.
- Apply for the Conditional Order: After a minimum period of 20 weeks, the sole applicant can apply for the Conditional Order (formerly the decree nisi). Joint applicants must also wait 20 weeks. This period of time can be used to help the parties reflect on whether ending their relationship is the right course of action and also provides time for the parties to attempt to work out other issues such as arrangements for children and finances.
- Apply for the Final Order: Once the Conditional Order has been granted, applicants, either solely or jointly, will need to wait six weeks and one day before they can apply for the Final Order. In sole applications, a ‘notice of intention’ must be served on the other party 14 days before the application for the Final Order is made.
- Granting of the Final Order: Once the Final Order has been granted the marriage/civil partnership is officially dissolved and legal responsibility for the other party is at an end. However, it may take more time to finalise orders in relation to other matters such as children and finances.
Can I get divorced in the UK?
To get a divorce in England or Wales you must meet the following criteria:
- you must have been married for at least one year
- your marriage must be legally recognised in the UK
- you or your spouse must have a permanent home in the UK
- you will need to state to the court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down
How much does a divorce cost?
The court fee for divorce is £593, but there are other costs associated with a divorce including emotional and stress-related expenditure. It is very difficult to estimate how much divorce is going to cost in total, however, the Money Advice Service reports the average cost of a divorce in the UK is around £14,500. Wellers approximate fees are as follows:
- We offer a Fixed Fee divorce package that covers all the essential elements of the divorce process for £750 plus the court fee
- Divorce: applicant – £1,500 – £2,000 plus VAT plus court fee of £593
- Protracted divorce: Estimate £3,000 – £5,000 plus VAT plus disbursements
Further details of Wellers’ fees in relation to divorce and financial settlements can be found on our Cost of Divorce page.
How long will it take to get divorced in the UK?
The new No Fault Divorce process will take a minimum of 26 weeks (six months) once the application has been made to the court. If the parties require more time to apply for the conditional order (formerly decree nisi) this is permissible.
How to get a divorce in the UK
The divorce processes are different for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The processes in each jurisdiction are as follows:
- Scotland: You can either apply for a simplified divorce (also known as do-it-yourself divorce) at the Sheriff Court for a £125 fee or you can apply for an ordinary divorce. A series of verifying questions will help you understand which type of divorce you will need to apply for. In Scotland the person seeking the divorce is known as the ‘pursuer’ and the person responding to the divorce is known as the ‘defender’.
- Northern Ireland: To begin divorce proceedings, a petition must be lodged with the Matrimonial Office – this costs £237. Unlike in England and Wales, you must be married for two years in order to get divorced in N Ireland.
- England and Wales: The process begins by completing a D10 or D11 application form and paying the court fee of £593. The respondent to a sole application has 14 days to acknowledge and respond to the application.
What is a divorce petition?
A divorce petition was the name for a divorce application made prior to 6 April 2022. The term was replaced when new legislation came into force which reformed English and Welsh divorce laws and introduced No Fault Divorce. The new terms are:
- divorce application (to end a marriage)
- dissolution application (to end a civil partnership).
What is family law?
Family law covers all the important issues relating to children and family relationships. The areas of family law that most commonly come before the family law courts include the following:
- Child arrangements following divorce or separation
- Civil partnership dissolution
- Cohabitation agreement disputes
- Domestic violence
- Financial settlements on divorce
- Pre- and post- nuptial agreements in relation to divorce financial settlements
- Separation dispute
What is Cohabitation?
Cohabitation is the act of living together as a couple but without the legal rights conferred by a marriage or civil partnership. However, it is possible to formalise aspects of your relationship by drawing up a ‘cohabitation contract’, although there are questions about whether these are legally enforceable.
What is a pre-nuptial agreement?
A pre-nuptial agreement (also known as a PNA, pre-marital agreement or ante-nuptial agreement) is a formal agreement reached between two parties before their marriage or civil partnership. It outlines how their finances will be divided in the event that their marriage or civil partnership breaks down. Although not legally binding in England and Wales, courts may take pre-nups into account when considering divorce financial settlements under the following circumstances,:
- The PNA was freely entered into by each party with a full appreciation of the implications
- It cannot be considered as unfair to hold the parties to their agreement
- Both parties obtained independent legal advice prior to signing the agreement.
- The agreement was entered into within a reasonable timeframe before the date of the marriage
A marital property agreement can be drawn up at any time following a marriage, but, again, a court is not obliged to enforce such an agreement.
How does divorce affect children?
Protecting the best interests of any children involved should be of paramount concern during any divorce or separation. Parents can help achieve this by doing the following:
- Being discreet: Protect children from difficult conversations that increase feelings of anxiety or uncertainty.
- Avoiding blame: Cycles of recrimination are only likely to damage children.
- Showing love: Show children love and remind them they are also loved by your ex-spouse or partner. Remind them they are not to blame.
- Maintaining routines: Keep children in school and maintain their normal extra-curricular activities.
- Listening: It is important that your child’s feelings are listened to and acknowledged.
- Being honest: Don’t share bitter or accusatory feelings regarding your partner, but be honest about your intentions and the details of the divorce process.
- Agree with your ex-partner: Agree that your child’s needs are paramount and to take a mature approach to their welfare.
- Model mature behaviour: If you model mature behaviour throughout the process you can help set an important template for children’s future behaviour under stress.
How to tell children about divorce
Telling your children that you are getting divorced is never going to be easy. However, according to Relate, you can make the situation easier for them by doing the following:
- Avoid blame
- Avoid giving them disturbing details – i.e. information about affairs, etc.
- Use simple language
- Acknowledge their feelings
- Reassure them that they are loved
- Explain things from their point-of-view
- Be honest that you don’t have all the answers
- Be clear about what the process will entail and how long it might take
- Tell them in familiar surroundings
- If possible, tell them together with your ex-partner
How to choose a divorce solicitor
It is not always necessary to choose a family law firm that is close to you geographically, but it may help if you are going to need to attend meetings with your divorce solicitors. More importantly, choose a firm that can provide a clear idea of the likely breakdown of costs, and a divorce solicitor you feel comfortable working with. Most firms will provide an initial meeting to discuss your circumstances, so make a list of any questions you have and be sure to take along any information they request of you. You should also choose a firm that has Family Law accreditation with The Law Society.
Wellers Law Group Divorce Solicitors
The Law Society accredited divorce solicitors at Wellers Law Group can provide you with advice, guidance and practical legal support throughout the process of separation, divorce and the division of financial assets.
We provide a flexible and tailored approach. This means we can assist you with all documentation and represent you at Court or we can provide you with ad hoc advice as and when you require it.
Our Family Law department is made up of men and women from a variety of backgrounds and we are confident that we have a specialist on our team suited to your needs and circumstances.
Please call our Family Law solicitors for help or advice on 020 8464 4242 for our Bromley team, 01732 457575 for Sevenoaks, 020 7481 6393 for Central London or 01372 750100 for our Surrey team. Alternatively email your enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org. We offer a fixed fee, no-obligation one-hour interview at a reduced rate of just £100 plus VAT so that we may provide you with initial advice and suggest the options for your next course of action.