My partner and I want to split on good terms: how can no-fault divorce help?
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For the last 50 years, applying for a divorce has meant entering the blame game, but how has the new no-fault divorce law, introduced on April 6, 2022, changed the rules?
“Until now a divorce could only be granted based on the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and by satisfying one of five grounds for divorce,” explains Jonathan Whettingsteel from Dutton Gregory Solicitors in Hampshire.
“The new divorce rules have reset this. Couples will now be able to submit (either jointly or individually) a statement of irretrievable breakdown to begin divorce proceedings without needing to blame the other, easing tensions and helping them to move on.”
As arguably one of the biggest updates to matrimonial law in recent history, we sit down with Jonathan to ask what other differences will no-fault divorce bring?
Q: How have legal procedures altered under no-fault divorce?
A: First, you will no longer need to satisfy one of the five grounds for your divorce to be granted. These were:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years’ separation if both parties consented
- Five years' separation without consent
Couples will now be able to solely or jointly apply for the divorce by submitting a statement of irretrievable breakdown, without needing to provide further detail or proof. It’s hoped this will reduce tensions and embrace divorces that have come about because of couples drifting apart. You can apply for no-fault divorce online, making proceedings more streamlined and convenient.
Under no-fault rules, as it's no longer necessary to make or prove allegations, divorces can only be defended in exceptional circumstances. This will enable spouses, where power imbalance or abuse may be present, to separate without further delay and one using the threat of defending the divorce to control the other.
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Q: How long will no-fault divorce take?
A: The new procedure will take approximately 28 weeks from start to finish. Once the statement of irretrievable breakdown is filed, the Respondent has 14 days to acknowledge it. This will confirm if they agree to or object to the divorce. You’ll then need to wait 20 weeks before applying for your Conditional Order (previously known as Decree Nisi). This enables couples time to reflect and ensure divorce is the best decision for them.
Six weeks after, you can apply for your Final Order (this was called the Decree Absolute) which confirms the marriage has officially ended.
Q: Can I apply for no-fault divorce without legal assistance?
A: You can, however, I wouldn’t recommend it. The risk of applying for no-fault divorce yourself is that you may forget important considerations, such as reaching an agreement on your finances, matrimonial assets and childcare arrangements.
Despite your divorce being finalised, these decisions remain and if you don’t think about it ahead of time, this could cause disagreements and you could lose out on money you’re entitled to.
Consulting a legal expert can help you understand what to expect from the divorce. We can explain alternative dispute resolutions methods, such as mediation, arbitration or negotiation through solicitors. These are all ways you can reach an agreement on property, finances and childcare, without needing to attend court. They can help keep relations amicable and reduce the impact of the separation on your family.
Q: Can getting a no-fault divorce save money?
A: As you’re able to submit a joint application, this allows couples to work collaboratively. Both spouses can potentially instruct a solicitor together, which could save on legal costs. It’s also likely that fewer negotiations will be required, saving you time and money.
Q: What should I do if I’m unsure about getting a divorce?
A: I’d always recommend consulting a solicitor first. Getting divorced is not a straightforward decision to make, but having someone to answer your questions and explain your options can put your mind at ease. By knowing what’s to come, you can make an informed decision about what’s right for your family.
After our many years in service - we’re celebrating our 75th anniversary this year - there’s little that we haven’t seen before, or helped separating couples work through. Our specialist family team has over 70 years of experience between us and can provide bespoke advice tailored to your circumstances.
We provide a quality, expert, friendly and dedicated service, reminding people they’re not alone and that we’re here to help.
To learn more about what no-fault divorce could mean for you, visit duttongregory.co.uk or call 01962 844333.