22 February 2022

A practical guide to the new ‘no fault’ divorce law

By Emma George, Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

The long-awaited Act for “no fault” divorce was passed in June 2020. It became law on 6th April 2022. The law is set to end the ‘blame game’ and cut short lengthy separation periods. Here is a practical guide to the changes in divorce proceedings from April 2022 onwards in England and Wales.

1. There is no need to place blame

Under the new legislation, couples can divorce without having to cite blame. They will no longer need to rely on one of the 5 grounds for divorce, which previously included:

• Unreasonable behaviour
• Adultery
• Two years separation (with consent)
• Five years separation (without consent)
• Desertion

These five grounds will be removed. Under the new law, parties can make a joint statement to apply for a divorce order if they both agree that the marriage has come to an end. Previously, only one spouse could apply for the divorce. This new option allows both parties to apply together, in a joint, more agreeable way.

2. New terminology

The term decree nisi has been used by the court to mark the first stage of divorce after the acknowledgement of papers by the spouse and after the application has been granted by the court. Under the reformed legislation, this stage of the process will be known as a conditional order.

Similarly decree absolute, which marks the final stage of divorce, confirming that the marriage has officially come to an end, will be known as a final order. This follows the current terms used for ending civil partnerships in a bid to try and simplify the legal process.

3. You can no longer defend a divorce

Under the new Act, it will not be possible to contest the decision to divorce.

4. There is a minimum wait period for the Final Order

There will be a minimum period of 20 weeks between the initial application and the conditional order, and another six weeks between the conditional and the final order. That means that even a straightforward divorce will take at least six months to complete. However, as all divorces are now applied for online, it is unlikely that the process will take any longer than the current divorce process.

5. Is there a change to the court fee?

From 30 September 2021 the Government increased the court fee from £550 to £593. Whilst official guidance is yet to be released, it is unlikely that this will change prior to April 2022.

6. How will this affect the finances?

The financial side of divorce will not change. Divorce and finances are separate but run parallel in the court system. The Act has been created with the intention of making the process of divorce easier and more amicable, but it is unlikely to have any effect on financial matters relating to divorce.

Clients are strongly advised to seek expert legal advice to resolve any financial disputes, and to document any agreement reached into a legally recognised consent order which is then full and final and cannot be changed.

If you need any advice from our family law specialists and would like to arrange an appointment, please call 01328 863231 or email emma.george@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published. Always seek our specific advice.

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