Discussing the new divorce laws: what is no-fault divorce and what changes will it bring?
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What effect will the new laws have on couples seeking a divorce in 2022?
Sharon Giles, partner and head of Willans LLP solicitors' top-tier rated family law team, tells us more about the new rules, the benefits of an amicable divorce and what financial and personal aspects you’ll need to consider.
Q: What is no-fault divorce and when will the new laws come into effect?
A: A no-fault divorce means that you can divorce your spouse without having to point blame at them for the marriage breakdown. At present, a couple has to be separated for two years or more before they can seek a divorce on a ‘no-fault’ basis.
To divorce sooner, couples must rely on admitted adultery, or have one party accuse the other of unreasonable behaviour. These examples must be deemed ‘reason enough’ by the family court to satisfy them that the marriage has run its course.
This means, even in the most amicable of splits, the law forces couples to focus on what they don’t like about one another, tainting the process with bitterness and encouraging adversary.
The new law, which comes into force on April 6, 2022, will remove the existing fault and no-fault reasons, replacing them with a simpler process that allows couples to jointly apply for their marriage to end.
Q: What are the benefits of no-fault divorce?
A: Removing the ‘blame game’ element from discussions early on will help to reduce conflict and ease divorce proceedings for everyone involved. Couples will be able to focus on more important matters like children and finances and talk about them calmly and constructively. This approach is a welcome shift that many family law professionals have been calling for.
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Q: What will I need to consider before seeking a divorce?
A: Firstly, consider if the marriage is really over. There are expert couples’ counselling and marriage guidance services available that can help you work through issues and restore your relationship. It would also help to give some thought to what your life post-divorce might look like.
Where will you live? How do you approach your partner if you haven’t talked about this already, and if there are children – even adult ones – how will you break the news to them? If you’re feeling emotionally fragile, seeking therapeutic support can be worthwhile too.
A divorce throws up a need for life-changing decisions to be made, so it’s important that you feel strong and well enough to take on board your legal advice and properly process your thoughts.
Q: What financial decisions will I need to make?
A: If you do split, you’ll need to look at your income situation. Do you need to retrain, go back into education or step up a gear in your existing role? You’ll need to think of these things if you're financially dependent on your spouse, or if you’re supporting them.
Unravelling the family finances can often be likened to unravelling a ball of string and sometimes you can’t anticipate reaching a knotty bit. Your lawyers will look to understand your financial circumstances and help you decide how best to share things out.
You should be prepared to produce banks statements, payslips, tax returns, property values, mortgage statements, business interest values, pension fund values and other relevant financial documents.
Q: Is it worth seeking legal advice before beginning my divorce?
A: Absolutely. Seeking legal advice early can help to eliminate the many myths and fears surrounding divorce, and steer conversations towards a constructive and sensible course. A divorce petition itself doesn’t settle family finances or resolve the myriad of practical issues that need to be addressed.
An expert family lawyer will navigate you through the process and help you focus on the things that matter, such as shared care of your children. At Willans, we specialise in dealing with complex financial matters and can help you find the most logical and tax-efficient way to manage your finances as you look to create two households and move forward with your life.
Willans LLP is a leading south west law firm that offers comprehensive legal services, including family law and divorce. They provide expert advice, a personal service, are Lexcel-accredited and recommended by Chambers and the Legal 500 guide.
If you’re considering a divorce and how it could affect your life, Sharon and Willans' top-tier rated family law team can help. Visit willans.co.uk to find out more. Call 01242 514000 for a confidential conversation or email Sharon directly at email@example.com.