No fault divorce in North Devon
On Wednesday 6 April 2022 the law governing divorce in England and Wales fundamentally changed. This change has been a long time coming. The government confirmed in April 2019 that no fault divorce was going to be introduced. Couples and legal professionals alike have been waiting since then for the changes to be implemented.
Up until now, couples have had to rely on one of five grounds for divorce in order to establish that their marriage has broken down irretrievably when petitioning. Critics have said that this has created a blame culture which harms the individuals and families involved.
It is hoped that the change in the law will eliminate this blame culture and consequently reduce conflict, allowing issues such as children and finances to be focused on and for matters to progress in a much more amicable manner.
So, what are the changes in the law and what do they mean?
- Divorce can now be granted without any blame
This is perhaps the most obvious feature of the new ‘no fault’ divorce law. Couples now can divorce merely on the ground that ‘the marriage has broken down’ without having to name one of the five grounds or blame the other party.
- Couples can now make a joint application for divorce
Up until now there has always been a separate ‘petitioner’ and ‘respondent’ in divorce cases. Following the changes, couples are able to make a joint application for divorce. Where couples are making a joint application, they can share the court fee, which is currently £593.00 (April 2022).
- Changes in terminology
The phrase ‘Decree Nisi’ has been replaced by the term ‘Conditional Order’, and the ‘Decree Absolute’ has been replaced by the term ‘Final Order’.
In situations where only one party is applying for divorce this person will now be known as the ‘Applicant’, rather than ‘Petitioner’.
- Introduction of a ‘cooling off period’
There is now a period of 20 weeks that must be left between the initial application and the ‘conditional order’ (previously Decree Nisi). There is still a period of six weeks and one day that must be left between the ‘conditional order’ and ‘final order’ (previously the ‘Decree Absolute’).
This cooling off period has been introduced to counter the argument that the new law makes it too quick and easy for couples to divorce. It is hoped that this ‘cooling off period’ will prevent couples from divorcing because of a ‘knee jerk’ reaction.
- Applications for Divorce can no longer be contested
The option to contest a divorce petition is no longer available to the Respondent. This is largely because the Applicant no longer needs to blame their spouse, eliminating the option of contesting the reasons for the divorce.
It is thought that the changes will reduce the stress that comes with divorce. Parties no longer need to raise issues about the conduct of the other, which can often cause individuals to feel as though they are being unnecessarily scrutinised. This is particularly prevalent in situations where parties have simply grown apart.
It is hoped that this reduced conflict, coupled with the inability to contest divorce petitions, will speed up the divorce process, despite the ‘cooling off’ period being introduced.
The new divorce system will hopefully make it more accessible for couples to get divorced, allowing individuals in unhappy or abusive relationships to petition for divorce. Parties no longer have the fear of the petition being contested which would in turn significantly increase the time taken to get divorced.
However, on the flip side, it has been said by critics that the new law fails to hold partners accountable for their poor conduct in a marriage and that because divorce is now too accessible it consequently devalues marriage vows.
For further guidance on no fault divorce in North Devon our specialist family law team are here to help and can offer a range of funding options. Call us on freephone 0333 888 0404 for a free initial chat or send us an email to [email protected]