From 6 April 2022, the introduction of ‘No Fault Divorce’ is to be implemented across England and Wales, and parties will be able to apply for a divorce on the basis that they consider the marriage to have irretrievably broken down.
Under the new ‘No Fault’ system, parties are no longer required to raise allegations of blameworthy behaviour against the other, marking the end of the ‘Blame Game’.
But what does this mean for you?
Any married person can apply for a divorce in England and Wales, providing the marriage has lasted at least one year and providing you have the right to issue proceedings in this jurisdiction, such as through residence.
Under the No Fault system, one party can apply on their own, or parties can make a joint application together.
From 6 April 2022, the HMCTS online portal is being updated and can be used by both legal professionals and individuals who wish to apply for a divorce.
As with the current system, the divorce process will still be dealt with via the HMCTS online portal, and parties will not be required to attend court, save for where contested applications are made within proceedings.
If court proceedings are brought regarding finances or children, these are dealt with separately to the divorce application.
The court issue fee to make an application for a divorce is £593. For parties represented by solicitors, there will also be legal costs to factor in.
Under the previous system, where a divorce was applied for based on the fault of one party, such as unreasonable behaviour, it was commonplace for the party making the application to ask the court for a Costs Order, requiring the responding party to pay the court fee and their associated legal costs.
Due to the fact there is no longer any fault element in the divorce application process, the default position shall be that each party pay their own costs unless they wish to make a separate court application for costs. It is expected that these will be made in the minority of cases.
It is also possible for a divorce to be applied for jointly by a couple, to share the responsibility of the associated administration.
We can assist in advising on how costs can be dealt with, including opportunities to share costs equally or recover costs through other means, such as in financial negotiations.
There shall no longer be the opportunity to defend a divorce application.
Under the new rules, if a party applies to the court for a divorce order on the basis that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, the court must take that statement to be conclusive evidence and make a divorce order.
This is a conditional order, and the divorce would only be made final after the requisite time period had elapsed.
Parties must be aware that until they have a financial court order in place after a divorce, both parties continue to have an interest in the other’s assets, income and liabilities.
It is not uncommon for spouses to have been separated or even divorced for several years, and for one party to bring a financial claim against the other many years later because no financial order was entered into at the time.
It may be the case that your finances are modest on divorce, but one party’s assets grow significantly subsequently, whether by way of income, property assets or pension.
Without a financial order in place, you are leaving yourself at risk against future claims. With No Fault Divorce, you can issue divorce proceedings without citing allegations of blame against the other to take out this element of conflict and proceed to resolve your finances. This should encourage parties who have been separated for a long time to ensure their affairs are in order.
The minimum time period to obtain your final divorce order has changed under the new legislation, as detailed in our previous blog.
In most cases, a final divorce order is not applied for until the finances have been resolved. Therefore, the reality is that many divorces are not finalised for much longer than the minimum time period prescribed by the Act.
Each case differs in its own facts.
We are here to assist you in all of your family matters, and if you have any questions or would like more information, you can contact our Family Law team below.