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How are Divorce Laws Changing? “No Fault Divorce”

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As one of the firms campaigning for no-fault divorce, we are pleased that it will soon be here, but what does it really mean for couples who are divorcing? How are divorce laws changing? Should you wait for the new divorce laws?

Designed to reduce conflict in divorce proceedings, No-Fault Divorce will remove the need to appoint blame for the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership and allow couples to make a joint divorce application.

This is a significant change to family law in England and Wales, which has traditionally required one spouse to divorce the other, usually on the grounds that their actions caused the relationship to fail.

The only amicable option has been to separate for 2 years before beginning divorce proceedings with your spouse’s consent.  If there had been no clear wrongdoing by your spouse and they did not agree to the divorce, you would have to separate for 5 years before the Court would agree to legally end your relationship.

As well as removing the need to prove wrongdoing, No-Fault Divorce eliminates the requirement to have your spouse’s consent and makes it possible for anyone to obtain a divorce in as little as 6 months. 

Are these positive changes?

Yes, we believe so, which is why we were one of the firms campaigning for this change.

The decision to divorce is rarely easy and an individual should have the right to choose whether they remain part of a couple, without having to justify their decision to strangers or wait years to separate their interests.  Divorce and dissolution are stressful enough without these unnecessary hurdles. 

Are there any other changes to divorce law?

A 20-week cooling off period has been introduced after the initial application to give people the time to reconsider or agree practical arrangements.  This means it will no longer be possible to finalise a divorce in less than 6 months.

The other notable change is that if you need the help of the court to settle finances and it may bias one spouse to grant the divorce or dissolution before a financial order has been granted, you will have to wait for the conclusion of financial proceedings before your divorce can be concluded. 

When will “No-Fault Divorce” come into effect?

The changes come into effect on 6 April 2022, under the ‘Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020’.

Should I wait for No-Fault Divorce and Dissolution?

The answer really depends on the specifics of your situation.   If you do not want to accept or apportion blame, or if you want to get divorced but your spouse does not, it might make sense to wait for the new rules. 

For those on amicable terms, the major benefit of waiting is that you will be able to submit a joint application, which you may prefer. 

Whatever the circumstances, the core issue is finding a way that you can both move forward with your lives.  To do so, you will need to agree your divorce settlement and arrangements for the ongoing care of any children. 

If you have complex finances, investments, business interests, high value pensions or assets located overseas – or if you are not on good terms – this can take some time.  The new system will not make this part of the process any quicker, so you may wish to start sooner rather than later, a delayed start will only mean a delayed end.

If time is of the essence, you should note that it is possible to finalise your divorce in 4 months under the current rules, under the new rules it will take at least 6 months. 

What is the cut-off for applying under the current rules?

If you want current divorce law to apply, your application must be with the court by 4pm on Thursday 31st March 2022. Online applications must be submitted by this time and paper applications must have been received by the court.

If you miss the cut-off you will have to wait until 6th April 2022 and make an application under the new rules. Divorce applications will not be accepted by the courts from 4pm Thursday 31st March to Tuesday 5th April 2022 to allow time for the transition.

Legal Advice

A solicitor will be able to advise you on whether it will be more beneficial to wait for the new laws or start proceedings under the current rules.  If you would like to speak confidentially to our team of family solicitors you can call 020 7993 2936 to schedule an appointment or make a Contact Request here.