Kristie Silsby I Family Lawyer at Willans
From 6 April 2022, a change in the law now means that divorcing couples will no longer have to play the ‘blame game’ or provide evidence of their marriage breaking down – a highly-anticipated move that the world of family law has been calling for.
The new system, also known as no-fault divorce, has not only been worth the wait for lawyers, many of whom see the blame element as unnecessary, but also for couples looking to reduce conflict and focus talks on the things that matter, such as children and finances, in a calm and constructive way. Many people may not realise that this shift – the first change to divorce law in over 50 years – replaces the old system completely.
Here’s everything you need to know:
What does no-fault divorce involve?
Under the new system, filing a divorce application in itself will confirm to the court that your marriage has irretrievably broken down; there will no longer be a need to demonstrate that one spouse has behaved unreasonably or attribute a reason for the decision.
This application can either be filed by both parties jointly, or by one party on their own whether their spouse agrees or not.
From the issue of the divorce proceedings, there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks in place, which is designed for both parties to cool off, reflect and make any necessary arrangements (for children and the finances, for example) before the ‘conditional order’ can be applied for.
Following the conditional order being made, another minimum period of six weeks will apply before the ‘final order’ can be granted which formally dissolves the marriage.
What are the positives of no-fault divorce?
As well as allowing time for positive and constructive negotiations to take place regarding any children and the finances – including any business interests, pensions, properties and other assets – to happen from an early stage, the new system will allow a divorce to proceed without needing to prove one of the previous ‘accepted’ reasons, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
It also means divorcing couples do not have to wait to apply for a divorce on a no-fault basis until they have been separated for two years, as has been the case until now.
Once the application is filed, it will also now not be possible for a party to contest it (unless there is lack of jurisdiction, invalidity of the marriage or coercion involved). This will take away the worry, stress and extra expense for a party who may be concerned about their spouse defending the divorce proceedings unnecessarily.
And the negatives?
No fault divorce effectively removes many of the negative emotions that are wrapped up in divorce proceedings and this may not be welcomed by individuals who see getting a divorce as a way to ‘get back’ at their spouse. This could mean a period of adjustment and education on the new law in some cases.
If you’re considering a divorce, it’s always worth seeking specialist legal advice, regardless of your situation. While the change in law has been designed to simplify proceedings, everyone’s circumstances are different and when disagreements over children or finances are involved, it’s important to receive tailored advice and guidance from a family law professional.
Family law solicitor at Willans LLP, a leading firm based in the heart of the Cotswolds
T 01242 542908
Imperial Square, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1RH
About Willans LLP
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