The Impact of No Fault Divorce
On the 6 April 2022 Family Law saw one of the biggest shake ups for decades. This was the introduction of “No Fault Divorce”. Under the previous law in order to obtain a divorce you had to demonstrate that the marriage had irretrievably broken down and in order to do so you had to confirm one of the following:
- The other person had committed adultery;
- The other person had behaved in such a way that you could not reasonably be expected to live with them anymore;
- You had been separated for 2 years and the other person agreed to the divorce;
- You had been separated for 5 years.
Therefore, for couples that wanted to try and remain as amicable break-up possible, they had to choose between waiting for a period of 2 years before petitioning for divorce or blaming the other party for the breakdown of the marriage.
The new law brings positive change in that separated couples can now apply to divorce without having to apportion blame.
One of the key changes brought in by the change in the law is that now one or both parties can petition for divorce either on a sole or joint basis. This therefore allows for a much more collaborative approach to divorce so it will be interesting to see how many of our clients decide to take this route. Not having to blame the other party for the breakdown of the marriage is likely to mean there will be less animosity between the parties and hopefully more chance of reaching an agreement on other matters such as dividing finances or agreeing the arrangements for the care of the children.
One of the other fundamental changes which has been brought in by the new law is the introduction of a new mandatory waiting period of 20 weeks. This runs from the date that the divorce petition is issued by the Court to the date on which you can first apply for a conditional order (the first formal stage of the divorce).
The idea of this period is to encourage the parties to take time to consider whether they do want to proceed with the divorce and to have discussions around (and hopefully reach an agreement) financial matters and arrangements for the care of the children, if relevant.
Once the Conditional Order is made the Applicant then has a further 6 weeks and 1 day to wait until they can apply for the final decree of divorce. This means that, under the new law, the total period for a divorce has increased but that is not necessarily a bad thing when the reasons for the in-built delays are considered.
One of the main changes brought in means that in reality it makes it very difficult for the other party to contest the divorce and so there is an argument to say the delay would not prejudice the other party.
Service of the divorce petition can also now occur via email. The rules require email service to be accompanied by a notice saying that the papers have also been sent to a postal address by first class post, or some other form of delivery. Some argue that having to serve by two means just creates extra work and incurs additional costs, which are unnecessary.
I have heard and been party to many discussions where people have stated that they believe “no fault divorce” will devalue marriage by making it much easier for couples to divorce. However my view is that the change in the law simply means that people who were going to get divorced under the old law can do so under a simplified procedure under the new law. The new process is primarily about making divorce less confrontational for both parties. Figures are yet to be published on what impact if any the no fault divorce has had on the divorce rate and it will be interesting to review when those figures are provided.
Whilst the divorce process may well have been simplified, this does not negate the need for people going through the process to seek independent legal advice. Divorce has a profound impact on both a party’s family life and finances and it is as important as ever for the parties to a divorce to seek some legal advice about how they are going to resolve their finances and arrangements for the children once that divorce process begins.
Disclaimer: General Information Provided Only
Please note that the contents of this article are intended solely for general information purposes and should not be considered as legal advice. We cannot be held responsible for any loss resulting from actions or inactions taken based on this article.
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