The new no fault divorce laws remove the need to apportion blame
The new ‘no fault divorce’ law under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 which came into force in April 2022, removes the need to apportion blame. It is sometimes called a no blame divorce and provides a premise for a swift resolution, minimising the impact upon children, if any involved, and enabling parties to move on as the option to contest has also been removed.
File a divorce application
An online application must be completed by the party requesting divorce and be filed at their regional divorce centre. An application can be made individually, or by both spouses, reflecting a move towards a more reconciliatory process.
The form will request the party to set out the reasons for wanting a divorce and how they intend on dealing with children and finances. In order to submit an application, the marriage certificate needs to be provided and a fee of £550 will need to be paid.
The eligibility criteria which must be met to be entitled to a divorce:
- have been married for over a year
- the marriage is legally recognised in the UK
- if the UK is the party’s permanent home or that of their spouse and
- the marriage has permanently broken down.
The only ground for a divorce is the permanent break down of marriage. Under the existing law, it is necessary for the applicant to prove fault by evidencing adultery, desertion, separation for either two years if divorce is agreed, or five years, if not agreed, and unreasonable behaviour due to domestic violence, drug-taking, refusal to pay towards living costs, and/or verbal abuse.
There will no longer be a requirement for the party to prove fault, and they will instead need to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage or a joint statement, if both parties have applied for a divorce.
After receiving the application, the court will notify the other party of receipt, and will require an acknowledgement of service, and a response being sent by them. The responding party will need to indicate that it has received the divorce papers, is satisfied with the reason for divorce and indicate if it agrees or contests the divorce.
The response must be sent within 8 days of receiving the application form if filed by post, or 7 days if submitted online. If a party disagrees with the divorce, it must complete an ‘answer to divorce’ form. Alternatively, the applicant can proceed by applying for a decree nisi.
One of the fundamental changes under the new law is that the option to contest divorce will no longer be available to parties, to prevent them from manipulating the process, especially domestic abusers who seek to control their victim.
The decree nisi
This is the penultimate stage of the process which represents that neither party disputes the proceedings and that the court sees no issue with a divorce being granted.
As it stands under the current divorce laws, an application during this stage will need to confirm that the information provided in the application form is true by filing a statement, i.e a Statement in support of Divorce/ Judicial Separation on the grounds of adultery.
If the judge agrees, the parties are granted a certificate. The couple will then need to apply for a decree absolute which formally finalises the divorce.
The decree absolute
This is the final step to the divorce process and is the legal document which officially ends the marriage.
Once the final decree, formerly known as decree absolute, has been granted, the couple are officially relieved from their matrimonial obligations.