9 November 2022

No-fault divorce explained

By Rob Colwell, Director and Head of Family Services, Hayes + Storr.

It is now over seven months since the long-awaited new “no fault” divorce law came into force on 6th April 2022. The ‘blame game’ has finally ended and lengthy separation periods cut completely.

Blame is no longer required

Under the new legislation, couples can now divorce without having to cite blame. Previous grounds for divorce including unreasonable behaviour, adultery or separation periods have all gone. In the past, adultery could be used as a reason for divorce, however, under the new law, even if adultery has been committed, it no longer has a place in divorce proceedings.

This does not change how hurtful adultery can be and some clients are still finding this new approach difficult to accept. If one spouse has caused the breakdown of the marriage due to their adultery, why should they ‘get away with it?’ However, there is now only one ground for divorce and that is: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, hence the new term ‘no-fault’.

If one, or both parties believe the marriage has come to an end, they are now simply asked to provide either a sole or joint statement to apply for a divorce order. However, joint divorce applications remain relatively rare.

You can no longer defend a divorce

It is now no longer possible to contest the decision of a spouse to divorce. Parties are encouraged to look to the future.

New terminology

The old term Decree Nisi had been used by the court to mark the first stage of divorce after the acknowledgement of papers by the spouse and after the application had been granted by the court. Under the new process, this stage of the process is 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, is now known as a Final Order. This follows the current terms used for ending civil partnerships.

There is a minimum wait period for the Final Order

A minimum period of 20 weeks between the initial application and the Conditional Order is now in place, with a further six weeks between the Conditional and the Final Order. Frustrating to many clients, that means that even a straightforward divorce is taking at least six months to complete. All divorces are now applied for online.

Is there a change to the court fee?

The court fee remains £593. It should be noted that a fee remission may be relevant to some couples, and this may help them decide who makes the application. A code can be obtained online, if in receipt of for example Universal Credit.

How will the new law affect the division of finances?

The financial side of divorce has not changed. Divorce and finances are separate but run parallel through the court system.

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 once sealed by a Judge, is then full and final and cannot be changed.

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.

NO-FAULT DIVORCE FREE APPOINTMENTS: Good divorce week 28th November – 2nd December 2022

As part of Good Divorce Week 2022, Hayes + Storr are offering free 30-minute, confidential appointments to advise individuals on how the new no-fault divorce process can work for them; given their own personal circumstances. Appointments are available between the 28th November – 2nd December 2022.

If you would like to arrange an appointment, please call 01328 863231.