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Get Ready! New Divorce Legislation Incoming!

View profile for Hannah Craven
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It is finally happening. ‘No fault’ divorce is approaching and approaching fast. The change in law does coincide with my own personal nuptials. I hope this doesn’t provide a bad omen for my relationship.

EDIT: This blog was originally written on 24th March 2022, just before the new legislation came into effect. Today, 6th April, is the day that the new legislation is effective from. Read on to learn all about how this new legislation is revolutionising the world of divorce.

Ending the Divorce ‘Blame Game’

That aside, this reform to our divorce legislation has been a long time coming. Practitioners have been campaigning for a reform in this area for several decades and it is a significant moment which will go down in history. The main advantage of the new divorce legislation is that it ends the notorious ‘blame game’, which means that couples can separate without having to satisfy a Court that one party is at fault.

What are the current grounds for Divorce?

Under the current legislation there is only one ground for a divorce which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. However, to establish this, any petitioner must rely on one of the five facts. These refer to:

  1. Adultery – What is Adultery? 
  2. Unreasonable behaviour – What is Unreasonable behaviour? 
  3. Desertion – What is Desertion? 
  4. Two years separation with consent
  5. Five-year separation without consent

What is Separation with Consent?

The ‘two years separation’ with consent ground is one of the five facts which must be relied upon in order to establish that a marriage has broken down irretrievably. Put simply, the parties must have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years immediately before the petition is filed with the Court. The respondent must also consent to the divorce.

What is Separation without Consent?

Separation without consent is one of the five facts that you may rely on to satisfy the Court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It means that you and your ex-spouse must have lived separately for five years immediately before the divorce petition is issued. You do not need the consent of the other party to proceed on this basis.

In my practice, the most common fact that a petitioner will pursue is the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ ground. This is where the Petitioner must satisfy the Court that the Respondent has acted in such a way that they cannot reasonably be expected to live with them, or indeed remain married to them. Examples of such behaviour are required in order to satisfy a Court. This means that in those circumstances where the marriage has come to an actual end, one party must set out often unpleasant examples of their ex-spouses’ behaviour in order to satisfy the ground for divorce.
 

“The new law which comes into effect as of 6th April 2022
means that there will be no requirement to apportion blame”

The other two ‘facts’ which involve either a period of two or five year separation means that couples often have to stay in loveless marriages for at least two years in order to rely on this ground for divorce. It is therefore not surprising that the legislation is viewed by many as been as outdated, unfair and in dire need of reform and that many choose the ‘blame game’ as a speedier route to divorce.
 

What does the end to the ‘Blame Game’ mean?

The new law which comes into effect as of 6th April 2022 means that there will be no requirement to apportion blame. Separating couples will simply need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

For the first time, separated couples will also be able to make joint applications stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Alternatively, one spouse can commence and continue with a sole application.

It will also prevent the ability for a spouse to defend the divorce albeit as I understand, they can defend the divorce in very limited circumstances.

The new legislation also introduces a 20 week reflection period. This commences once the divorce petition has been issued and gives spouses an opportunity to consider other options. It will also allow couples time to plan for children and finances. The 20-week period will commence once the divorce petition has been issued and when the spouse may apply for a Conditional Order formally referred to as the decree nisi. The current minimum time frame of 6 weeks between the pronouncement of decree nisi and application for decree absolute will also remain.

Another stark change is the update in the legal language and the legal terminology used for divorce. For example, the ‘petition’ will be known as the ‘application’. The ‘petitioner’ will be known as the ‘applicant’. ‘Decree nisi’ known as the ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘decree absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’. The rationale behind this is to make the language simpler and more accessible to those outside the legal profession.
 

When does the new legislation come into effect?

The Court has released some important time frames to note. The first is that the new law will come into effect on 6th April 2022. If you are to petition for a divorce on or before the 5th April 2022 then your application will progress under the existing law. Any application submitted under the existing law that are not issued by the Court before the 6th April will be returned to you will be informed that you need to complete an application under the new law.
 

“If you are to petition for a divorce on or before the 5th April 2022
then your application will progress under the existing law.”

The Court has asked that all paper applications are received by the Court by 4pm on the 31st March. If any applications are received after this date there is a risk that they may be rejected and returned to the sender who will have to apply on the new form and under the new law.

All digital applications must be submitted online no later than 4pm on the 31st March. The digital system will accept new applications from 10am on the 6th April 2022.

Who pays the Divorce costs?

The Petitioner or Applicant will pay the Court fee upfront when the petition is filed with the Court.

How long does Divorce take?

Under the new regime, it will take approximately 26 weeks for the Divorce to be finalised.

How much does Divorce cost?

There is a Court fee of £593.00 for filing a petition with the Court. There will also be legal costs should you instruct a solicitor to assist you with the Divorce.

How do I initiate Divorce?

If you wish to apply for divorce then please contact a member of our reception team at any of our offices for further information. Please see contact details below.
 

Garforth
Westbourne House, 99 Lidgett Lane, Garforth, Leeds, LS25 1LJ
Tel: 0113 246 4423
Email: enquiries@thorntonjones.co.uk

Ossett
25 Bank Street, Ossett, WF5 8PS
Tel: 01924 586466
Email: enquiries@thorntonjones.co.uk

Sherburn in Elmet
6 Finkle Hill, Sherburn in Elmet, Leeds, LS25 6EA
Tel: 01977 350500
Email: enquiries@thorntonjones.co.uk

Wakefield
Bank House, 1 Burton Street, Wakefield, WF1 2GF
Tel: 01924 290029
Email: enquiries@thorntonjones.co.uk
 

About Hannah Bowes

Hannah is a Family Law Solicitor at Thornton Jones Solicitors. Hannah joined Thornton Jones in early 2017 after gaining valuable experience at both Irwin Mitchell and Stewarts Law. She commenced her training to become a Solicitor in early November 2017 and qualified as a Solicitor in June 2019. She subsequently joined the Family Law team here at Thornton Jones and specialises in helping couples navigate the Court process when separating and divorcing.