No Fault Divorce: what to expect in April 2022
The Government has confirmed that No Fault Divorce will be introduced in England & Wales in April 2022, although lawyers are still waiting for the detailed rules that will underpin the change in the law to be published.
Here is a comparison highlighting the main differences between No Fault Divorce and the current divorce process:
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 will become the Divorce Order
- The Petition will become The Application
- Decree Nisi (the first decree of divorce) will become the Conditional Order
- Decree Absolute (the final decree of divorce) will become the Final Divorce Order
- Petitioner will become the Applicant
- 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.
From September 2021 it became mandatory for all petitions for divorce to be made online. A new online portal is currently being developed for the ‘No Fault Divorce’ route, which will also be mandatory when the new law is introduced.
- 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.
- 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 or fraud.
- 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. However, in a change from the current procedure, the Court must accept this statement as evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The five facts that are currently required to be proved (adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years separation (with consent) and five years’ separation (without consent)) will no longer be relevant.
- 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 will be 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.
Should you wait for 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.
Each situation is different and, for example, there may be tax implications of waiting to start divorce proceedings until April 2022.
If you thinking about waiting you should get legal advice relevant to your particular circumstances before making a decision on the timing of any proceedings.