Jennifer Pollock, Senior Associate in Family Law, from leading UK law firm Irwin Mitchell shares her thoughts on some of the most asked questions around no-fault-divorce since it came into effect on 6th April 2022.
What is a no-fault divorce?
Changes made to the law last year have revolutionised the process of divorce application. Prior to its introduction, you had to demonstrate that your marriage had irretrievably broken down by proving one of the following:
· The other person has committed adultery.
· The other person had behaved in such a way that you couldn’t reasonably be expected to live with them any more.
· You’ve been separated for two years and the other person agrees to the divorce.
· You’ve been separated for five years.
· The other person has deserted you for at least two years.
With the introduction of no-fault divorce, it is no longer necessary to justify why the marriage has broken down, you only need to confirm that the breakdown is irretrievable, but the divorce can still be challenged if, for example, jurisdiction is disputed.
How long will a no-fault divorce take?
In theory, a divorce could be completed within 7 months. There is a mandatory 20 week ‘wait’ between divorce application and the first stage of divorce (conditional order). This “cooling off” period ensures that there is a period of reflection before the marriage is formally ended. Once the conditional order is made there is an additional 6 week ‘wait’ before you can apply for a final order which legally ends the marriage.
Who pays the Court fee?
Usually if the parties issue proceedings as joint applicants they will agree to each pay half of the court fee. If no agreement is reached then the first applicant will need to pay in full. If they are issuing as a sole applicant, then the applicant will pay for the fee. Under the old rules the applicant could ask the Court to make an order that their costs were met by the other party. This is now only possible in very limited circumstances.
Can we use one solicitor if we are applying jointly for a no-fault divorce?
Some solicitors are agreeing to act for both parties if they are joint applicants. However, it is probably best to have separate independent legal advice especially if you need to address your financial separation alongside the divorce.
What if I don’t know where my ex-spouse lives?
An application can be served by e-mail, but a notice confirming such service must also be sent to the respondent’s postal address. If the address is unknown, then you will need to make an application to the court to serve by an alternative method.
What if they won’t co-operate with the divorce?
If you are a sole applicant, you can continue the divorce process without the consent of the respondent. Likewise, joint applications only require one party to proceed with the divorce. If a joint applicant wishes to proceed as a sole applicant to obtain a final order, they must give 14 days’ notice to the other party. If you are the respondent in a sole application, and you wish to move the divorce forward, but the applicant will not do so, if the conditional order has not been applied for, you must issue your own, new, divorce application and the timeline will restart for that new application. You can then only apply for the final order, three months from the earliest date on which the original applicant could have made their application.
About Jennifer Pollock
I joined Irwin Mitchell as a Senior Associate solicitor in 2021 bringing over 12 years of family law experience with me. I am passionate about providing the highest level of service to my clients with a personal touch. I practise exclusively in family law and specialise in all aspects of relationship breakdown, divorce, divorce in later life, cohabitation disputes, children issues and domestic abuse injunctions. I have specialist knowledge and expertise in advising high and medium net worth individuals on the financial aspects of separation including dealing with pension and business assets upon divorce.
About Irwin Mitchell
Irwin Mitchell provides legal and financial services to businesses and individuals operating from 17 locations across the UK. The firm is ranked as a market-leading legal services firm in the independent Legal 500 and Chambers UK guides to UK law with over 250 lawyers personally recommended. Irwin Mitchell Scotland LLP is a separate Scottish legal practice regulated by the Law Society of Scotland and has an office in Glasgow.