No fault divorce sees surge in applications
When theclock finally chimed for no-fault divorce, courts saw a surge in applications fromcouples looking to avoid the blame game, but challenges still lie ahead forcouples ending their marriage.
HM Courts & Tribunals Service has revealed that some 3,000applications were made in the week that the Divorce, Dissolutionand Separation Act 2020 came into force, compared with a weekly average of2,000 over the previous year.
The new Act came into force on 6 April 2022 and thelong-awaited change allows married couples to issue divorce proceedings withoutassigning blame. Only a statement ofirretrievable breakdown is needed, and it also makes it possible to file fordivorce jointly, so couples can reflect a mutual agreement to part. Previously, the only alternative to blamingone partner of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour was to go througha period of separation of at least two years.
The aim is to make divorce less confrontational across theboard, but will support victims of domestic abuse in particular, as the applicationfor divorce cannot be contested and they will be able to avoid making allegationsrequiring investigation or supporting evidence. These are changes long demanded by victim support groups and the Actrepresents a major step forward for those looking to leave abusive marriages.
However, some aspects of the new rules are causing concern. While the Act requires that a minimum of 26weeks elapse between the start of the divorce proceedings and the final divorceorder being made, professionals have highlighted that the new process couldresult in the other party finding out about the divorce proceedings with littlenotice.
That’s because the 26-week period of notification of proceedingsruns from the date the petition is filed with the court, not from the date thatproceedings are served on the respondent. And while the new rules nominally provide for service on the respondentwithin 28 days, in practice the applicant may not follow the provision and thecourt cannot reset the timetable if service is delayed.
The applicant can apply for the conditional order at anytime from 20 weeks after the filing of the papers at court, provided therespondent has been served at some stage, and then six weeks later theapplication can be made for the final decree.
Whilst the divorce process may have been simplified intheory, it remains important that separating couples seek advice not only inrelation to the divorce process but more importantly in relation to resolvingissues relating to the division of their assets and arrangements for children.The introduction of the no-fault divorce process does not affect the fact that partiesstill need to ensure that they understand their rights and responsibilitiesarising from a divorce and specifically that a divorce itself does not include provisionfor financial settlement which should be resolved alongside the divorceprocess.
At Wolferstans, we have an experienced family team who canadvise and assist you in achieving a fair financial settlement for you and yourfamily. Contact us today to book an appointment by calling 01752 292201.
Web site contentnote: Thisis not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interestabout current legal issues.