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UK No Fault Divorce Explained

As of 6 April 2022, the law changed in regards to divorce in the UK. Instead of the previous process which required one party to apportion blame on the other (unless separated for longer than two years), there is now what is known as ‘no fault’ divorce. In other words, it is no longer possible to use the previous process and detail reasons of blame against the other party. Now, you rely on the fact that your marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down.

The benefits of this new process are as follows:

  • It is now much more difficult for the recipient to be able to defend proceedings. There are now only very limited circumstances in which a court would consider a defence to a divorce. This prevents as many divorces from being contested.
  • You can now make the divorce application as a sole applicant or joint applicants. The joint application can assist in keeping matters more amicable as both parties feel in control of the process.

Procedure

The procedure with the new laws has slightly changed. As referenced above, you can either apply as a sole applicant or joint applicant. There is a court fee to pay in both processes of £593.

If you are a sole applicant, you are the sole applicant and your partner is the “respondent”. Once you have started the sole process, you cannot change to the joint process in the future. Therefore, you need to consider whether the joint process is more suitable before issuing. If you are represented by a solicitor, they will need to use the online application process. Once the application has been issued, the court will serve the application on the respondent and they will be informed what to do next. They can only defend or contest in limited circumstances.

If you are joint applicants, this can be done online or via post. If you are joint applicants, it is important to note that whoever is ‘applicant one’ will have to pay the court fee when they submit the application, therefore, how the parties are splitting the costs of the divorce process should be agreed in advance before submitting the paperwork.

For both processes, once the application has been submitted, the court requires a 20 week period between the initial application and an application for the next stage, which is known as the conditional order. This time period is known as a “cooling off” period, and is meant to allow for the parties to reflect on their decision, ensure that they definitely want to proceed with the divorce, and focus on trying to settle any financial and children arrangements that there may be.

After the 20 weeks, a conditional order can be applied for (previously known as the Decree Nisi). If this is approved, then it is clear that the court sees no reason as to why a divorce cannot proceed .

Following the conditional order, a six week period must pass before you give notice for the conditional order to be made final (previously known as the Decree Absolute). Once you have obtained the final order, the divorce is finalised and the parties will no longer be married.

The process is summarised below.

  • Make sole or joint application
  • Wait 20 weeks to apply for the conditional order
  • Apply for the conditional order
  • Conditional order is made
  • Wait six weeks to give notice for the conditional order to be made final
  • Final order made

When dealing with a divorce or dissolution, you should always consider whether there are any financial or children mattes which need to be dealt with as well.

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