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Should I wait for a ‘no-fault divorce’?

The ‘no fault’ divorce becomes law under the terms of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 in April this year, meaning that couples will be able to get a divorce without having to blame the other person for what went wrong. If you are separated and planning to divorce, the question is – should you wait?

Currently if you wish to get divorced in the U.K. you either need to have been separated from your partner for a substantial amount of time or one of you is required to make allegations against the other – essentially blaming one person for the end of the marriage. Having to make these allegations can create unnecessary conflict in an already difficult situation. The new law means that couples will be able to focus on their future and dealing with their property, finances, and children if they have any, rather than looking back at what went wrong.

The main changes to divorce law are;

  • The option to have a joint application – where the couple apply for a divorce together
  • A no fault divorce cannot be contested
  • The ‘cooling off’ period, during which discussions are had and arrangements are made, will be a minimum of 20 weeks after the initial application is made, and a further 6 weeks between the conditional and final order
  • Divorce can be granted without any blame – instead of there being five reasons to choose from for a divorce, now one person has to make a legal statement saying that  the marriage has broken down irretrievably
  • The law also changes some of the legal jargon in the process. The “petitioner” will now be the “applicant”, the “decree nisi” will now be called a “conditional order”, and the “decree absolute” will be called a “final order”

Should I wait until April?

This comes down for many as a personal choice. If you have already been separated for two years, then there is no reason to wait as you can make your application under these grounds if you believe that your ex will agree the divorce. The divorce itself will not be quicker from April as the process will take the same time as the current system.

The main benefit of waiting for the change in the law is for couples to have the opportunity to remain on amicable terms throughout the divorce and in the future.

Family law practitioners have campaigned for this reform in the law for many years because we strongly believe that divorces without any allegations will be a better foundation for couples to talk about children and money. We believe it will be easier when things are already hard enough. Having to remember the worst arguments and setting them out in a legal document inevitably causes  anger and resentment and can affect  discussion about financial and child arrangements. 

Unsure of the next step?

Our family law team offer a fixed fee first meeting where you can discuss all your options with a Family lawyer. Whilst divorce might be simpler it affects your legal status and you need to know how this might work for you. Within this meeting we will give you the information you need to proceed confidently. This meeting is followed up with a letter detailing everything discussed and the advice provided so that you know where you stand legally should you decide to go ahead with a divorce or dissolution.

About the Author

Samantha O’Dwyer is a family law solicitor and mediator. Based in our West Wickham office, Sam specialises in family disputes, including financial issuesdivorce, and private children matters.

Posted in: Divorce, Family law

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