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New Divorce Process - Update

The new divorce process which has been long awaited in the legal world, came into force on the 6th April 2022. According to new figures, Divorce applications have surged by as much as 50% since then.

What changes have been made to divorce law?

From 6th April 2022, neither party has to blame the other, or have a separation of 2 or 5 years, in order for them to divorce. This means that a couple can mutually cite “irretrievable breakdown” as the sole ground for wanting to obtain a divorce. Either both parties can jointly state the marriage has broken down or only one of them needs to. There is no need to provide evidence of the bad behaviour.

It is hoped that no fault divorces will help separating couple save time and money compared to the old divorce procedure and will bring to an end the “blame game” culture that was previously there. It will also allow people to file for a divorce even if the other party does not want to get divorced.

What is the 20 weeks cooling off period?

The new minimum time period from submitting the divorce application to the conditional order, the second to last stage, is now 20 weeks. After these 20 weeks, the 6 weeks and 1 day timescale remains in place before the final order can be applied for and the divorce concluded. This allows both parties time to agree practical arrangements around the separation. Once 20 weeks have passed a conditional order is granted by the Court. This replaces what was previously known as the Decree Nisi.

Will I still get a Decree Absolute?

The term Decree Absolute has been replaced with a Final Order. This cannot be applied for at least six weeks and 1 day from the date of the Conditional Order.

Can a divorce be defended under the new law?

If you are the party not willing or ready to get divorced, unfortunately there is no longer a way of ‘defending’ the divorce, other than on jurisdictional grounds, on the basis that the marriage was not valid from its commencement or if the divorce has already taken place. This means that a party who may not wish to get divorced, can no longer stop this from happening, in real terms.

Can you ask your spouse to pay the costs of the divorce?

Another significant change under the new law is that whoever commences the divorce is no longer able to ask the other party to meet their legal costs of the divorce, without making a separate application, which comes with additional cost. Under the old process, costs could simply be asked for within the divorce application. In reality, this works hand in hand with the new schemes plan to try and reduce the hostility between the parties when divorcing.

Are these changes likely to make divorcing easier?

After having issued a few new divorces, it appears that the process is a lot clearer than it ever has been and gives the parties the opportunity to lodge the proceedings jointly.

The previous law would often result in parties playing the blame game and increased animosity, solicitors involvement and legal costs. By removing the need to blame one party, it is hoped that it will encourage a more collaborative approach to resolving the issues that arise when a marriage breaks down.

The changes have been positive so far and Martin Tolhurst are committed to working under this new scheme of working amicably as possible.


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