The introduction of ‘no-fault divorce’ in England and Wales in April 2022 was a defining moment in family law.
Not having to prove a fault-based fact against an ex-partner or spend years still married to obtain a divorce has meant that couples can now separate more amicably, saving both stress and time.
As expected, there was a spike in the number of divorce applications in the immediate aftermath of no-fault divorce being introduced by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 when it came into force last year. Figures show there were 33,234 divorce applications from April to June 2022, up by almost a quarter on the same period in 2021.
Of these, 22% were from joint applicants, which was another major reform introduced by the legislation. Previously, one party had to be the applicant, and the other had to be the respondent. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act allows couples to make a joint application for divorce, although applicants can still submit a sole application if their partner does not agree.
No-fault divorce introduced several other changes, most notably keeping irretrievable breakdown of the relationship as the sole ground for divorce and updating the divorce language. Some of the main changes introduced by the Divorce Act 2020 included:
- ‘Decree Nisi’ has become a ‘Conditional Order’.
- ‘Decree Absolute’ has become a ‘Final Order’.
- The person submitting the application has changed from the ‘Petitioner’ to the ‘Applicant’.
- It allows joint applications for divorce in cases where the couple both agree that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
- It removed the ability to contest a divorce, dissolution, or separation.
- It introduced a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to when the ‘Conditional Order’ can be made.
The new no-fault rules are the same for ending a marriage through a divorce and terminating a civil partnership through a dissolution. There is a set legal process you need to follow and a series of steps you must take.
A divorce or dissolution usually takes at least six months to finalise, even in reasonably straightforward cases.
In this article, our specialist Divorce lawyers provide a step-by-step guide to obtaining a no-fault divorce.
1. Seek legal advice.
Deciding to divorce or dissolve a civil partnership can be stressful, and you need to ensure you receive the necessary specialist support and guidance.
Consulting an experienced family solicitor is advisable even if you think your situation is straightforward.
It is important to note that a divorce is only the legal end to a marriage. Separating finances and making arrangements for any children needs to be done separately. The input of a specialist divorce solicitor is vital to ensure that any agreement you make is in your best interests.
A recent report has found that women, in particular, can miss out on fair divorce settlements through couples trying to divorce without adequate advice or information.
At Larcomes, our divorce solicitors in Portsmouth and Waterlooville have the knowledge and experience to help, regardless of your situation.
All of our family solicitors are committed to the Resolution Code of Practice, which promotes an approach to family law that is sensitive, constructive, cost-effective and will most likely result in an amicable agreement.
2. File an application.
In England and Wales, you must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least a year to be able to apply for a divorce or dissolution.
To start divorce proceedings, an application must be sent to your local family court, either online or by post.
If you and your spouse agree that the marriage has ended, you can make a joint application. You will need to submit various details, including the names and addresses of both partners, a copy of the marriage certificate, and a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’ to confirm that the relationship has run its course.
3. Court issues your divorce.
The court will then process your application and then ‘issue’ your divorce by returning the papers, which usually takes between two and four weeks. Once these have been received, you and your spouse must complete and return an ‘acknowledgement of receipt’.
If one spouse makes a sole application, the court will send a copy of the application to the other spouse, who will then be required to confirm receipt and return an ‘acknowledgement of service’ form to the court within 14 days. The court will then process the application before issuing your divorce.
4. Apply for a Conditional Order.
A Conditional Order is a legal document that confirms the court cannot see any reason why the divorce cannot go ahead. You must wait a minimum of 20 weeks after your divorce application has been issued before you can apply for a conditional order.
This ‘cooling-off’ period has been introduced by the no-fault divorce laws to give couples time to consider their decision and make any relevant arrangements concerning children, property and finances.
A judge cannot approve a Consent Order relating to your matrimonial finances until you have your Conditional Order.
5. Apply for a Final Order.
Once your Conditional Order has been granted, you will then need to wait at least six weeks before you apply for a Final Order. Once a court issues you with a Final Order, your marriage is officially over.
Divorce Law Solicitors
If you are struggling to remain cordial with your partner, or you have any questions regarding divorce, our team of dedicated and understanding solicitors are here to help you.
At Larcomes, we have experience in all areas of family law, and our family law solicitors can advise you on all divorce and separation matters, including:
- The Divorce Process.
- Financial Matters.
- Child Matters.
Please note that this article is not intended as legal or professional advice. It is for general guidance only, and updates to the law may have changed since it was published.