No Fault Divorce: What it Means for You
No Fault Divorce becomes law today (6th April 2022). It is the biggest change that we have seen in family law for decades. In this blog we examine what No Fault Divorce means for you, and how it might affect your divorce.
In keeping with the Government’s acknowledgment that Court processes need to be accessible to the public, the new law takes the opportunity to update the language of divorce:
• Divorce Petition becomes an Application for a Divorce Order
• The Petition becomes The Application
• Decree Nisi (the first decree of divorce) becomes the Conditional Order
• Decree Absolute (the final decree of divorce) becomes the Final Divorce Order
• Petitioner becomes the Applicant. Where there is a joint application, both parties will be The Applicants.
2. 12 month rule
The rule preventing a couple from divorcing within one year from the date of the marriage will remain. Before that time, couples will continue to be able to apply for a Judicial Separation – which will mean that some of the financial issues can be resolved although the couple will remain married.
An Application for a Divorce Order using the ‘No Fault Divorce’ route should be made using the new online No Fault Divorce portal.
4. Joint applications
For the first time it will be possible for couples to make a joint application for divorce. Sole applications will also continue to be available.
5. Defended Divorce
It will no longer be possible to defend the divorce. It will be possible to ‘dispute’ the divorce on limited grounds for lack of jurisdiction, validity of the marriage, fraud and procedural compliance.
6. Irretrievable breakdown
The sole ground for divorce will continue to apply and under the new law, applicants will provide a statement of ‘Irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage.
The Court must accept this statement as evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The five facts that used to be required to be proved (adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years separation (with consent) and five years’ separation (without consent)) will no longer be relevant.
7. Two stage process
The two stage process will remain with a couple first receiving a Conditional Order and then six weeks from that date, a Final Order.
A specific ‘cooling off’ period of 20 weeks is introduced by the new law, so that the Applicant(s) will not be able to confirm that they wish to proceed and apply for the Conditional Order before the expiration of 20 weeks from the start of the proceedings.
The whole process cannot be completed before the expiration of 26 weeks from start to finish.
No Fault Divorce
The introduction of No Fault Divorce is a hugely welcome development for many couples wanting to end their relationship in a co-operative and constructive way. However, it is worth bearing in mind that divorce and separation is more than just the legal process that we have outlined in this blog. It can have profound emotional implications too. You might want to listen to our podcast on No Fault Divorce which explores both the legal aspects and the psychological impact of No Fault Divorce.
For expert advice on any aspect of No Fault Divorce, contact our specialist family lawyers at E: email@example.com or T: 020 7420 5000.