On April 6 this year the introduction of No-Fault Divorce brings the most far-reaching changes to divorce laws in the last five decades.
No-Fault Divorce aims to make it easier for couples to manage their separation and work together to avoid lengthy, costly, and stressful court disputes.
Here are some key facts about what the new legislation means.
How different is it from the current system?
Under existing laws, unless couples have lived apart for two or five years, one partner must refer to some form of blame – either adultery, desertion, or unreasonable behaviour – for the marriage breakdown.
No-Fault Divorce removes the need for separating couples to prove fault or to live apart for at least two years before being granted a divorce.
Could we apply separately for a divorce?
Yes, you can individually seek a divorce or submit a joint application on mutual terms.
If my ex filed for divorce, can I contest it?
As the element of fault/blame will be removed, a divorce application cannot be defended.
Will it be quicker to get a divorce?
Yes. Depending upon the circumstances, it can currently take between four months to a year to terminate a marriage and reach a financial settlement.
The new time scales require a period of a minimum of 20 weeks between lodging an application with the court and applying for a Conditional Order (currently known as a Decree Nisi).
This gives couples time to carefully consider if they are making the right decision. If, after 20 weeks, they still want to go ahead, they need to inform the court and after a further 6 weeks apply for a Final Order (currently known as a Decree Absolute).
Will divorce become less expensive?
Yes, as contesting petitions can rachet up costs. Presuming that the court fee of £593 does not increase, the simplified and online process will be less expensive.
What are the benefits?
Removing blame is expected to create a better forum for negotiations relating to children’s arrangements and finance.
Although one or both ex partners may still mentally attribute blame to their former spouse for the breakup, excluding the reference to fault in the divorce application will hopefully create a more inclusive and collaborative atmosphere to discuss and reach a solution.
Will it make dividing assets easier?
Hopefully yes, as again the element of blame will be excluded when the court deals with finances – unless the conduct of either, or both applicants, is exceptional.
It is anticipated that separating couples will be more open minded to discuss financial issues without the resentment that sometimes exists when blame is articulated.
However, it is important to understand that the divorce process only leads to a dissolution of the marriage.
The financial issues arising from the separation will need to be negotiated and the agreed settlement approved by the court. If agreement is not possible, then a separate process will be to be started.
It is essential to take expert advice with regards to the finances as it may be necessary to delay applying for a Final Order to protect pension and insurance benefits.
ABOUT PETER JONES
Peter Jones is one of the country’s leading divorce and family lawyers. A qualified Arbitrator and Mediator, Peter set up Jones Myers as the first niche family law firm in the north of England in 1992 and has acted for a string of high-profile clients.
Renowned for his sympathetic approach, Peter is the current chair of Resolution’s Accreditation Committee, a former national chairman of Resolution and a former Deputy District Judge. www.jonesmyers.co.uk