On 6 April 2022 changes to the law on divorce will come into force. The new process will hopefully reduce conflict between parties and lead to more amicable discussions surrounding separation.
We answer some frequent questions about the new law and process below.
1. Should I wait April to issue my petition?
In general, unless urgent, petitions under the new law (to be called applications), from now on, waiting until the new law comes in the likely starting point but must be decided on a case-by-case basis. It will depend on urgent need, for example, a need to secure the jurisdiction of this country’s legal system over another.
The new law will also have an in-built statutory waiting time of 20 weeks from the time an ‘application’ is issued to what was called ‘decree nisi’ and therefore if there is a consensus and a need to deal with finances sooner, then it may also be advisable not to wait.
All ‘old-style’ applications will need to be received by the court by no later than 4pm on the 31st of March 2022 and ideally before, unless there is genuine urgency in which case a petition may still be issued under a special procedure until 5th April.
2. I really feel my spouse is to blame for the end of the marriage. Can I still divorce on the basis of their adultery or unreasonable behaviour?
Not after 6th April 2022. The requirement to evidence fault, often called the ‘blame game’ has been a feature in most divorces for many hundreds of years will be completely removed.
The only ground in the future will be that marriage has broken down irretrievably.
3. Will I still get my Decree Absolute at the end?
Any application which has been issued on or before 5th April will continue to progress under the existing law. This means the applicant will apply for and receive a Decree Nisi and a Decree Absolute to finalise their divorce.
For all new applications for divorce, the terminology changes and Decrees Absolute and Decrees Nisi will be consigned to legal history. Parties will instead get Conditional Orders and Final Orders to replace the old-style decrees.
4. Will the new process be quicker?
The law introduces a new minimum period of 20-weeks between the start of proceedings and applying for a conditional order of divorce or dissolution which is longer than now. Together with the existing minimum six-week period between conditional order and final order of divorce this will mean that divorce for most people will in future take a minimum of six months, with additional time for the conditional order application to be considered and pronounced.
In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to have this process expedited.
5. Can I still get my costs paid?
The presumption that the respondent can be ordered to pay the costs of the petitioner is removed and if the petitioner wants to claim costs, they will need to make a specific application to explain why.
Parties can make arrangements between them with regard to paying the costs and it is expected most parties will want to agree the costs between them in this way rather than having to make a separate application (which costs more in itself).
The expected costs of Giles Wilson acting for an applicant in uncontested straightforward applications without costs orders being sought will be £650 plus VAT and the court fee (currently £593 if payable). The costs of acting for a respondent in such a case will be £350 plus VAT.
6. Can we apply jointly now?
This is a brand-new feature, and couples can now opt to be joint applicants if so advised. This may not always be advisable.
7. Is it a different process for couples in Civil Partnerships or Same-Sex Marriages?
No, the process is identical.
If you have any queries regarding the above, please contact a member of our family team on 01702 477106.