The new law constitutes the biggest family law reform in England and Wales since 1969 and leads the way to a less acrimonious, more straightforward divorce process that aims to protect vulnerable spouses and allow adult couples to decide for themselves when their relationship is over, without the need to prove it to the court.
What has changed in No Fault Divorce?
There are a number of very clear changes that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (the Act) has brought into being. These include:
- No blame or fault: The new divorce process has been dubbed ‘No Fault Divorce’ because couples no longer need to cite one of the ‘five facts’ or grounds for divorce when submitting their divorce application (formerly ‘petition’) to the court. They do not need to attribute adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or a period of time living apart (formerly two years with consent to the divorce and five years without consent).
- Joint applications: If a couple agrees to the divorce, they can apply together as joint applicants. Sole applications by one spouse (the applicant) are still applicable and in such divorces, the other person is known as the respondent.
- No contested divorce: In the past, it was possible for the respondent to defend, or ‘contest’ the divorce if they did not agree to the ending of the marriage/civil partnership. This often made proceedings complex, acrimonious, costly, and ultimately meant that one party remained ‘trapped’ in the relationship and legally bound to the other person. In relationships where one party was suffering abuse, this was a terrible situation and the Act now takes away the option to arbitrarily contest a divorce. Divorce may now only be disputed on grounds of the validity of the marriage/civil partnership, jurisdiction, fraud, and issues of procedural non-compliance.
- Minimum of 26 weeks to end the marriage/civil partnership: After the application is made to the court, whether a joint or sole application, there is a minimum period of 20 weeks before the Conditional Order (formerly decree nisi) can be applied for. This gives both parties time to reflect on the ending of the relationship and, perhaps, to reach agreement about certain issues such as arrangements for children and the family finances. Once the Conditional Order has been granted there will be a further six-week period before the Final Order (formerly decree absolute) can be applied for. Sole applicants must serve a ‘notice of intention’ on the respondent 14 days before they apply to finally dissolve the marriage.
- Simplifying the language of divorce: A number of the terms previously used in divorce have changed to make them clearer and more up-to-date with modern language.
Does no fault divorce make it easier to get divorced?
While the new legislation does not make it ‘easier’ to get a divorce – there is still a strict legal process and procedural timeline to adhere to and a requirement for couples to be married for one year before they are able to apply for divorce – it is hoped that the new legislation will make the process less adversarial. Under the old system, many divorces started out with acrimony and blame, which often meant that one spouse felt aggrieved. So, when the couple came to start thinking about all the issues arising from relationship breakdown, such as arrangements for children, and property and finances, they were already on an uneven footing, which often led to difficult and hostile negotiations.
By allowing couples to forego the blame game and decide for themselves when their relationship has broken down irretrievably, this may enable more amicable negotiations.
The new divorce law will also mean that vulnerable people, perhaps those suffering from abuse, will be able to apply for a divorce without having to make accusations and their spouse/civil partner will not be able to contest the divorce, thus ‘trapping’ them in the relationship for a number of years.
Can I use the same divorce solicitor as my spouse in a no fault divorce?
No, if you choose to hire a family lawyer to ensure your legal rights during divorce, you must be represented by a divorce solicitor from a different firm than that of your spouse’s solicitor.
You are not obliged to have legal representation during a divorce, but unless you and your spouse agree on all the arrangements you are well-advised to seek legal advice to ensure your rights are upheld. If you don’t wish to go to court, a solicitor can help you ensure any agreements reached between you and your former spouse are in your best interests.
To prevent further claims and to make the agreement legally binding, you should apply to the court to convert your divorce agreement into a consent order. Your divorce solicitor will be able to help you seek a consent order in relation to financial settlement, arrangements for children, and other requirements.
How much does it cost to get divorced?
When making your divorce application there is a court fee which currently stands at £593.
If you wish to be represented by a divorce solicitor, this will incur extra costs.
The Wellers Reese-Jones family solicitors in Kent offer a fixed-fee package for just £750 plus VAT (excluding court fees) which covers the key elelemnts of the divorce process itself. If you require further support, perhaps regarding issues relating to children and finances, we are happy to provide a quote at the outset as to the likely costs.
Our objective is to complete family law matters as expediently and straightforwardly as possible to minimise stress and keep the process cost-effective.
If you live in Sevenoaks, Westerham, Tatsfield, Biggin Hill, Edenbridge, or any other area of Kent, contact us today so that we may assist you. Please call Wellers Reece-Jones on 020 8290 7992 to talk to Laura Goode, or email email@example.com