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From 6 April 2022, couples will be able to divorce under new legislation that finally removes the need for ‘blame’ when divorcing.  Up until 6 April 2022, couples will still need to use one of five grounds and further detail can be seen here. Couples wishing to start divorce proceedings before 6 April 2022 should seek tax advice.  This will clarify whether it would be more tax efficient to wait until the new tax year before starting a divorce, as can often be the case.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is a welcome introduction given that the present system was put in place in 1973 and has long been criticised for unnecessarily encouraging antagonism between couples.

What is no fault divorce?

  • The requirement to use one of five ‘facts’ (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation or five years’ separation) is removed.
  • Divorce proceedings can be started by either spouse simply on the basis that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  There will be no need to give a reason, hence ‘no fault’ divorce.
  • A divorce petition will now be known as a divorce application.
  • In a conciliatory change, it will also be possible to bring a joint application for divorce.  This will be suitable for couples who want to work co-operatively and constructively to end their marriage amicably.
  • The ability to contest or defend divorce proceedings has been removed, making it much easier for those with particularly difficult spouses to leave an unhappy or abusive marriage.
  • For those feeling vulnerable about a marriage ending against their wishes, our Family Team can reassure you about your options and how you can protect yourself.
  • Language will be in plain English.
  • Decree Nisi will now be known as a conditional Order.  Decree Absolute will now be known as a final Order.
  • There will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings until the issuing of the conditional Order.  This is to encourage couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where there is no prospect of reconciliation and divorce is inevitable.

How much will no fault divorce cost?

  • The present divorce petition fee is £593, which is payable to the court.  There has been no indication that this fee will increase for divorce applications.
  • Solicitors’ legal fees will be in addition and depend upon how much assistance a person feels they need in managing the divorce process.

How long will a no fault divorce take?

  • A minimum 26 weeks.
  • There must be 20 weeks between the start of the application and conditional Order, and 6 weeks and one day minimum between conditional Order and final Order.
  • This is a change to the existing regime and means the new divorce process may take longer.  The present process takes on average 8 weeks from the start of an application until Decree Nisi.

Can mediation be used in a no fault divorce?

  • Yes.  Given the encouragement to pursue a divorce on a no fault basis, couples will also continue to be encouraged to use mediation as an amicable and courteous way to conclude financial and/or children arrangements.  For more information on mediation, including the government’s £500 voucher scheme see here.

How are financial matters resolved in a no fault divorce?

  • In exactly the same way as fault-based divorces.
  • It is only the divorce application process itself that is changing; spouses will continue to have claims against one another for income, capital, property and pension in life and on death because they are married.
  • Divorce does not automatically end these claims and a financial Order will still be needed as part of a no fault divorce.  For more information on finances see here.

How will arrangements for children be deal with in a no fault divorce?

  • As with the present divorce system, any issues regarding children arrangements will be dealt with separately and not as part of the divorce process itself.
  • For more information regarding children matters see here.

Do I need a solicitor for a no fault divorce?

  • The divorce portal is online, allowing greater access and improved usability whether or not a person has a solicitor.
  • Our Family Team gives straightforward and transparent advice about what a person would benefit from in terms of bespoke advice or assistance through the divorce process, and what they may be able to do themselves.
  • We would always recommend speaking with a solicitor before starting divorce proceedings, even if you intend to start the proceedings yourself.  This is to ensure that you are not unwittingly causing yourself any problems from a financial or tax perspective by starting divorce proceedings at the wrong time.
Expert
Georgina Rayment
Partner, Head of Family, Mediator
Georgie Hall
Partner, Head of Private Client Services, Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer
Victoria Mayhew
Senior Associate Solicitor, Accredited Mediator