What is the new divorce process?
On 6 April 2022 long-awaited changes to the divorce process will take place as so-called ‘no-fault divorce’ becomes a reality.
Family law has hardly changed in decades, still requiring one party to be the petitioner, applying for the divorce and specifying the fact being relied on, usually unreasonable behaviour or adultery, while their ex assumes the role of respondent. This adversarial system, which often leads to an increase in acrimony between the parties, is at odds with the way most other countries approach divorce.
So how will the divorce process change on 6 April?
The new divorce law will provide the opportunity for sole or even joint applications where couples provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown without the need to blame a particular party.
It is still possible to dispute a case, but only on the basis of the validity of the original marriage, rather than on the basis of grounds.
- The new divorce process will start with filing the divorce application at the court. This can be done jointly or solely and may be done online.
- There will then be a minimum 20-week period between the start of proceedings and applying for a conditional order. The aim of this period is to provide couples with time for reflection or, where divorce is inevitable, make plans for the future.
- Six weeks after the conditional order is made, the applicant or applicants (or, indeed, the respondent) can apply for a divorce or dissolution final order, although they may decide to delay this if they are in the process of resolving financial matters.
Does the new divorce process make it easier to end a marriage?
On paper, yes, it would appear to be more straightforward to apply for a divorce and creating a system that reduces conflict is certainly a positive step.
However, it is worth noting that the law relating to financial provision and child arrangements is not changing. These issues are often the trickiest to resolve, requiring considerable negotiation.
It is important that you reach agreement on finances, including pensions, property, savings and investments, before applying for decree absolute. This will enable you to achieve a ‘clean break’ (in most cases) and move on with your life.
It is advisable to seek expert advice when making financial arrangements and applying for a consent order, as your agreement will need to be legally binding.
- From 31 March 2022 you can no longer apply on the current paper or digital systems or access a saved digital application which is yet to be issued by the court.
- Between 31 March and 5 April 2022 the digital service will not accept new applications.
- From 6 April 2022 the new paper and digital services will be available.
- Urgent applications can be made between the two dates on the old system, but the court is only likely to accept an application as urgent if a party is terminally ill or expecting a child that is not a child of both parties.
For help and advice on the new divorce process, please speak to our Altrincham solicitors on 0161 929 8446, our Stoke-on-Trent solicitors on 01782 205000 or our Birmingham solicitors on 0121 516 3025. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.