The New Divorce Law - No Fault Divorce

The aim of the divorce is to make it more amicable as it is a ‘no blame’ divorce. The new law covers marriages, civil partnerships  and judicial separation.

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By Victoria Richardson - 6th April 2022

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The new divorce law comes into force on 6 April 2022 and will bring a significantly new procedure to those people wishing to obtain a divorce. Or those who don’t! The new law covers marriages, civil partnerships and judicial separation. 

The new law now means that the only basis on which you can get a divorce is that of irretrievable breakdown. It can be commenced by either party, or an application can be made jointly by both parties. The aim of the divorce is to make it more amicable as it is a ‘no blame’ divorce.  The final divorce takes place 26 weeks from issuing the Divorce Petition.

As the new procedure is a no blame divorce, you are no longer able to commence divorce proceedings on the old law, e.g. use the grounds of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. There is also no provision for the actual divorce to be defended. If one party wants a divorce, then it's going to be granted.

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Potential clients will be pleased to note that there has also been a significant change of language in the new rules, making it more user friendly and approachable. The main changes of language are as follows:

  • 'Divorce Petition' will now be known as 'Divorce Application'.
  • 'Petitioner' is now the 'Applicant'.
  • 'Decree Nisi' is a 'Conditional Order'.
  • 'Decree Absolute' is the 'Final Divorce Order'.

The whole divorce process will now take place online and will be by way of unilateral notice from one party to the other.

20 weeks after the start of the proceedings (and as long as service has occurred on the other party), the Applicant can apply for the Conditional Order.

6 weeks after this is announced, either or both parties can apply for the Final Divorce Order. However, it's important to note that if service of divorce proceedings is delayed for any reason, then the Applicant can still apply for the Conditional Decree after 20 weeks, which means that the divorce is progressing very quickly.

The major downside to this is that financial matters may not have been resolved due to the short timescale which will have implications for both parties.

It is, therefore, more important than ever to obtain legal advice in respect of the resolution of financial matters from an approved divorce lawyer so that you are protected financially as much as possible in your divorce.

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With regards to who pays for it, it is expected that the parties will be responsible for the costs of the divorce themselves. No costs can be claimed from the other party as this is a completely no fault procedure. This may cause some issues if the current divorce fee of £593 remains at this level.

In conclusion, the law reform is welcome and overdue as it removes the blame game from the parties and concentrates on resolving financial and/or children issues. However, unfortunately, in the new reform the law is based on unilateral notice on one party to the other, and does not allow time for each party to reflect and consider, negotiate and resolve. It remains to be seen whether this aspect is amended in due course. For now the mood is generally positive as a way forward.

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