The much awaited “no-fault divorce” legislation is set to come into force in England & Wales next year. The new law will apply to both marriages and civil partnerships. It is hoped that the legislation will give couples the option to apply for a divorce without the need to demonstrate fault or wrongdoings, and in doing so, avoid the potential “blame game”.
What is the date for no-fault divorce?
The no-fault divorce law is set to come into place in England & Wales in April 2022. This is after some delay, as it was originally announced in February 2019.
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How will no-fault divorce be different to the current divorce rules?
Currently, couples wishing to divorce must prove that their marriage has ‘irretrievably’ broken down – this means that it cannot be repaired and there is no chance of repair in future. To prove this, divorcing couples must meet one of the following 5 grounds:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation with ‘consent’
- Five years separation
As couples cannot apply for divorce together, it remains the burden of one party to prove one of the grounds caused the breakdown of the marriage. As expert divorce solicitors, we guide our clients through this tricky part of the process. Every couple and family is different, and the grounds chosen depends entirely upon individual circumstances.
In the case where the marriage has broken down without fault, many couples wait until two years of separation are completed and then apply on that ground, as they do not wish to implicate fault in one another.
This means that these separated couples are living apart but remain legally married for two years before they can even begin the divorce process, which itself can be complicated and lengthy.
No-fault divorce aims to remove this roadblock and ease the process for those wanting a divorce without fault or blame.
Should I wait for no-fault divorce?
If you or your spouse are considering divorce, we would advise that you speak to our family law team as soon as possible rather than wait for the legislation to come into place before you contact a solicitor.
It is important to remember that the grounds for a divorce are only one aspect in the entire process of divorce. Other issues, especially those relating to finances, pensions, property, and children, are highly complicated and require sound legal advice from a trusted and experienced family solicitor.
The no-fault divorce legislation has already been considerably delayed, and matters around your wellbeing, finances, property, and children are far too urgent to hang in the balance.
If you would prefer to wait for the legislation to come in, let our team know. We will listen to your wishes, talk through your options, and then map out a plan to protect you and your interests.
Even if you ultimately decide to wait for the legislation to come into play, we can begin some of the work so that the process isn’t further delayed.
How long will no-fault divorce take?
From the moment that application is made until proceedings start there is a minimum 20-week ‘cooling off period’, to ensure the couples are firm in their decision to proceed. It is estimated that the entire process, including the 20-week cooling off period, will take a minimum of 6 months.
It is important to note that the requirement to be married for at least one year prior to applying for divorce will remain.
Who will be eligible for a no-fault divorce?
Married couples and civil partners will be eligible to seek a no-fault divorce once the legislation is in practice.
Can my spouse contest a no-fault divorce?
Neither party will be able to contest a no-fault divorce. When using the current grounds for divorce, the respondent (the spouse receiving the petition for divorce) can object and potentially block the divorce by contesting the grounds.
Under the new no-fault divorce option, neither party will be able to object, however there may still be considerable and complex work to do around division of your assets, including pensions and property, and child arrangements.
Your roadmap ahead: book a diagnostic meeting
If you or your spouse are considering divorce, it is very important that you are listened to. We offer all clients an initial diagnostic meeting. During your meeting, one of our family solicitors will take the time to understand what has happened and listen to your needs.
We will then talk through your roadmap, which is a blend of your wishes and our legal expertise. We will look at the individual circumstances of your relationship and family, discuss the potential issues, and agree upon a plan of action that works for you.