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No Fault Divorce and How It Helps You

From 6th April 2022, the divorce process for all married couples who want to divorce has changed.

Filing for a divorce under the new no fault divorce process means that the need for one spouse to cite unreasonable behaviour is no longer needed.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020), introduces the biggest shakeup in divorce law for more than half a century. It completely removes the need for separating couples to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage, helping them instead to focus on key practical decisions involving their children or their finances right from the start.

As a family lawyer for 23 years, I have worked with both men and women, young and old yet the one common reoccurring thread running through all my clients is the pressing desire for their divorce to  be over as quickly and cheaply as possible. 

People who are divorcing ultimately, want to move on with their new lives and get on with sorting out where they will live after the divorce and what money will they have after the divorce. If there are Children then this is even more important for them as the children need to adjust and settle into the new living arrangements with their mum and da. The sooner this can happen the better it is for the mental and physical wellbeing of the children and their parents alike.  

The main standout feature of the no-fault divorce process is the removal of fault or blame from the divorce process. The need to write down all the reasons the marriage has broken down is no longer required as it was under the old procedure. It is sufficient now to simply state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.  This is enough.

By the time a client approaches us about ending their marriage they are sure that the marriage is over and they both want out.  

Under the new No fault divorce process it means that they can simply agree that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and that would be enough to allow them to legally dissolve their marriage.  It allows the couple to immediately start focusing on what really matters such as resolving issues around the children, the home and the finances. 

There is no need under new No Fault Divorce process to recall and write down incidents explaining how unreasonable the other spouse’s behaviour has been in the marriage. It completely takes away the worry and anxiety about about the divorce becoming defended and importantly it prevents one partner from deliberately and vindictively contesting a divorce knowing that it will lock their spouse into an unhappy marriage.

In some cases, domestic abusers can use their ability to challenge the process to further harm their victims or to trap them in the marriage. The reforms under this new process will put a stop to this being allowed to happen.

Under the new no-fault divorce process the application cannot be defended.  The risk of a Defended petition meant more money being spent on legal fees and time being wasted.

Instead, couples can now file a divorce application either on their own or jointly as a divorcing couple. This is done on the basis that they both genuinely believe their marriage cannot be saved and to this end they can use the ground for divorce is the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Couples can apply for divorce jointly under no-fault divorce process

Before no-fault divorce came in on 6 April 2022, it was only possible for one person to file the divorce petition against the other. This has now changed and so have the terms referred to under the new no fault divorce process.

Making divorce simpler

The main advantage of this No-fault divorce process is that it takes the worry and anxiety out of the possibility of the divorce being defended.  It also removes the the need to state anything about your marriage or why it broke down on the petition itself.

No Fault divorce does not mean ‘quickie” divorce.  There is no such thing as a ‘quickie’ divorce even if both parties agree the new process under a no-fault divorce will take at least 6 months to finish.

The divorce procedure has been made simpler by removing some old archaic terms such as ‘Decree Nisi’ and replacing this word with a more relevant description of “Conditional Order”.  The old term decree absolute will be replaced by the new term Final order.  The petitioner will now be referred to as the applicant.

The new divorce process introduces a strict minimum timeframe of 20 weeks which is triggered from the start of proceedings namely from the filing of the application at court and paying the court fee to when one is allowed by law to apply for a conditional order of divorce which can only be done 20 weeks cooling off period.

Do I still need a solicitor for a No-Fault divorce

Yes. It would be very wise and strongly recommended that you should instruct a solicitor for your divorce if you also have property and money to sort out too.  Filing for a divorce under the no-fault divorce procedure, deals with one aspect of your relationship breakdown. The divorce will only legally end your marriage and dissolve it.

You can deal with this without a Solicitor but if you have any other issues to sort out such as the house, money, pensions, investments then you will need expert legal advice. 

You could possibly save some money between you both by doing the divorce yourself but when it comes to finalising matters relating to the house or money or child arrangements then yes, you will definitely benefit speak to a solicitor. 

Do not forget that the court fee is fixed and must still be paid directly to the court on all divorces unless you are exempt.   This court fee must be paid to the court at the same time as making your application for the no fault divorce.  

If you instruct a solicitor then your solicitor filing the application will pay the court fee on your behalf and see your divorce through to the end.

In my experience as a family lawyer of 24 years, I have found that where both parties have come to an agreement then the best way forward is to quickly speak to your lawyer to put action that agreement without delay and file the application.

Below I will explain the new process under a no-fault divorce. You must remember that even once your divorce is made final and your marriage has ended, this does not mean that your financial ties have been terminated. You will need a separate agreement to finalise and terminate all the financial ties between you  in relation to the matrimonial money and property.

Making the application for no fault divorce

You must be married for one year before you can make the application for divorce. To start the process, it will begin with the filing of an application to court which is submitted digitally.  The application is made on Form the D8 and it will have a declaration that your marriage has broken down irretrievably.  This declaration will be enough evidence to allow the divorce to proceed.   

You can apply for a divorce by yourself in which case you will be known as the sole applicant. Alternatively, you may choose to make a joint application with your spouse and with joint applications you will both be referred to as joint applicants.

Solicitors can act for you both in the no-fault divorce process but you must remember that the solicitor cannot act for both of you if you need to sort out joint matrimonial property or money as well at the divorce.   

It is also possible that you both agree to pay the costs jointly. The spouse without the solicitor can simply respond to the application which they receive from the court. This is simple enough to do and only one spouse then has to see the solicitor.

If you receive a divorce petition from your spouse, you will be known as the respondent in the legal process.  You are the respondent because you will be requested to respond to the divorce paperwork.  All paperwork is now done digitally so you must have up-to-date email addresses.

Applying as a Sole Applicant under the No Fault divorce process

Your solicitor will file your application to court using our online divorce portal directly linked to the divorce centre.  The fixed court fee will be paid on your behalf by us.  The court will usually take a few days to process the petition and once this is done your spouse will be sent to a copy by email.  The email will also be followed by a letter from the court which will be sent to the address given on the D8 application Form.

Once your spouse receives the application in the post from the court they will have 14 days to respond to the application. Your spouse will need to complete and return back to the court called an acknowledgement of service.  This document will be enclosed in the application they receive. An acknowledgement of service is a simple form which will require your spouse to confirm they agree to the divorce. They simply sign it and send it back to court. 

We would write to your spouse first and let them know what to expect. We would ask them to copy us into any document they sent to the court so we can keep an up-to-date record of everything that is happening in your divorce process to make sure it is dealt with quickly.

If you apply for the no-fault divorce as joint applicants

If you make a joint application that once you have the documents from the court you will then need to send the form back to court confirming that you have received the divorce proceedings. There will be a Notice of Proceedings form in the envelope you receive from the court.  You must read the notice of proceedings carefully.

The person who will initiate the joint application for divorce for example be the lead applicant and will be called Applicant 1.   It is Applicant 1 who would pay the fixed court fee and will be required to complete most of the application form.  

Both parties as applicants will then need to sign and send back to court the Acknowledgement of Service form when received from the court.

You should then both apply together for the conditional order and the final order. If you feel that the other party is unreasonably delaying applying for the conditional order or final order, there is an option for you to apply for the conditional order and or final order by yourself.

If you apply for the conditional order and final order on your own then the process will switch from joint application to a sole application.

It is strongly recommended that you only apply for the no-fault divorce as joint applicants if you are both working to the same timetable and you both agree to promptly return and are happy to apply for the conditional order and final order without any delay.

How long does the  No Fault divorce take

It will take a minimum of 6 months to end your divorce. When the court have received your application for the divorce under the no-fault procedure, you will have to wait a period of 20 weeks before you or your spouse can apply for a conditional order.  This 20 week waiting period is known as the cooling off period.  It has been implemented into the divorce process to allow both parties to think carefully about whether they wish to continue to end their marriage. 

If after 20 weeks cooling off period, you both still want to end your marriage then you can apply for the conditional order.  Your solicitor will make the application on your behalf for a conditional order.  When the conditional order is received from the court this means that the court accepts that you are entitled to a divorce and that your marriage has broken down irretrievably for ending your marriage.  The court will electronically issue the conditional order to your solicitor.

Applying for the final order

Your solicitor at Anglo law solicitors will apply for your final order after 6 weeks have passed from the date of your conditional order. Your solicitor must wait 6 weeks before applying for the final order. 

The final order is the order which legally ends your marriage. The court will electronically issue the order to your solicitor.

Agreeing your financial matters after receiving the final order

It must be remembered that the end of your divorce will not end your financial ties. You should speak to your solicitor and make sure that you have a legal document called a consent order signed and sealed by the court.  This Consent Order neatly ties up all your financial matters and terminate your financial ties past, present and in the future.

If your ex-spouse will not agree to reach a settlement about the house or money then your solicitor can help you negotiate an end to this.  Anglo law solicitors offers a free consultation to explain how we can help you to finalise your financial matters quickly and cheaply and with going to court. Most cases are agreed within weeks and there is no need to go to court.

Author:  Shabana Sultana, Solicitor at Anglo Law Solicitors offers a free consultation. Call now to book.