No Fault Divorce: Nearly One Year On
On 6 April 2022, No Fault Divorce, the biggest reform of divorce law in 50 years was introduced.
It had been much anticipated by family lawyers ever since the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was passed in the House of Commons on 17 June 2020 but suffered a number of delays in coming to fruition.
The important aim of the reform was to reduce conflict between couples seeking to legally end their marriage or civil partnership.
No fault divorce completely replaced the old system. A system that had remained unchanged since 1973. It means that separating couples no longer have to assign blame in order to end their marriage.
It was a welcome change for many people, family law practitioners included. The hope was, that in removing the allocation of blame linked to the reason for the breakdown of the relationship, the level of acrimony and recrimination would reduce.
Did ‘No Fault Divorce’ do what it said on the tin?
We in the family law team at GA have found that, on the whole, the new process has helped our clients focus on the mechanism of moving forward from the breakdown of their relationships, rather than focussing on the reason for the breakdown happening.
However, some have felt that no fault divorce has given greater power to the party with more funds available as to the one who does not have the funds to pay the Court fee and may not be entitled to a fee exemption. This is because the claim for costs that could be included in previous applications is no longer an option.
That said, there are ways that this can be overcome.
Under the new no fault divorce regime, there is a 20 week ‘cooling off’ period from making the application before being able to apply for the Conditional Order (what was previously known as the Decree Nisi). This felt like it may be an excessively long period but, in reality, it has meant that we can focus on getting ahead in terms of financial discussions. This has often meant we are able to present an agreed Order to the Court as soon as that stage is reached.
The use of the Court portal has also streamlined the divorce process for family lawyers and unrepresented parties alike. The option to have a joint application has merits too, as both parties can feel like they have the same level of control.
One aspect which was not clear at the outset of the change, was the Court fee. We now know that only one person can physically pay the Court fee and that it cannot be split when going through the process. Payment must come from one side. The current Court fee as at the time of writing this article is £593.
So, nearly a year later, we think no fault divorce is a positive step forward in family law which enables people to look forward and make the process of divorce less painful.
If you are interested in progressing a no fault divorce, please contact the family team by calling 01752 203500. You can also email me directly via amanda.lyons@GAsolicitors.com.