No Fault Divorce from 6th April 2022
Will I need to provide any documents to the court?
You will need to supply documents in support of your divorce/dissolution application, for example, a marriage certificate.
Can I object or defend the divorce?
It will no longer be possible to defend the divorce, except on limited grounds such as jurisdiction. Should a Respondent wish to dispute the divorce, a form will need to be completed offline. This is called an Answer, and this must be filed and served within 21 days from the date the acknowledgement of service form is required to be filed, giving reasons as to why the divorce is being challenged. If the Respondent does not do this in time, the other party will usually be able to continue with the divorce.
Who can start the divorce or dissolution?
A sole application or a joint application can be made to the court.
If we apply jointly, do we need to be in the same room?
No, with joint applications there will be Applicant 1 and Applicant 2. Couples should try and agree who is to take the role of Applicant 1. Once Applicant 1 has submitted the relevant information, Applicant 2 will receive an email asking them to review the information and to provide any further information.
This is then returned to Applicant 1 to review. Couples will also need to both sign a statement of truth.
Some new terminology will appear, and this table can help as a quick reference tool:
|Pre 6 April 2022||From 6 April 2022|
|Decree Nisi||Conditional order|
|Decree Absolute||Divorce order|
|Defended proceedings||Disputed proceedings|
If one party is the Applicant, the other person receiving the divorce will continue to be called the Respondent. If both parties are applying, then they will be Applicant 1 and Applicant 2
The divorce/dissolution timetable
Day 1: File divorce/dissolution application online.
28 days: From the date of issue of the application, the court will serve the Respondent or both parties (if this is a joint application) by email. If the Applicant wants to deal with service, it is anticipated that service should be undertaken within 28 days from the date of issue of the application, but the rules do not specify the time for service.
14 days: From the date of service of the application the acknowledgement of service is to be filed at court, or
35 days: From date of service this is the time to file an answer if there is a dispute.
(a) From the date of issue of the application, (provided the acknowledgement of service was served within 18 weeks from the date of issue), the Applicant can apply for the conditional order. This really is the interim divorce order.
(b) If the acknowledgement of service was served later than 18 weeks from the date of issue of the application, the time to apply is no earlier than 14 days after the acknowledgement of service should have been filed.
6 weeks: After the date of the conditional order both parties or one party can apply for the divorce order. If the application is made by one party that party must give 14 days’ notice of their intention to apply. This will bring the marriage to an end.
Urgent applications can only be issued when the issue of divorce application is time critical. This includes when time is critical for jurisdiction or when a freezing injunction is needed.
What if the divorce has already been issued before 6 April?
Your case will continue under the law pre-6 April and not under the new system. This means the Applicant will still have to apply for the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute to bring their marriage to an end. You will need to ensure you are using the correct forms as the old and new forms will remain available online.
Can I access my old Decree Nisi or Decree Absolute?
Yes, these orders will be saved and remain available via the court service.
What about judicial separation?
This process allows couples to live apart without divorcing or ending their civil partnership. Applications for judicial separation must continue to use the paper application process. Under the new law however, judicial separation applications can be made jointly as well as solely.
What about nullity?
A decree of nullity states that the marriage is not valid. Unlike a divorce you do not need to wait one year to start this procedure.
Consideration will need to be given in relation to the circumstances of the case where a marriage is void or voidable.
Nullity applications must continue under the paper-based system. Joint applications are not permissible.
How much will a divorce now cost?
The court fee to start the divorce/dissolution application is presently £593. Certain exemptions may apply.
Solicitors’ costs for the divorce/dissolution only are usually £500-750 plus VAT at 20% (where applicable) where the procedure is straightforward and not disputed. This also depends on who is starting the divorce.
Who pays the costs?
In the past the Respondent was at risk of paying the costs of the divorce process. Under the new rules claiming costs does not seem to have been addressed and it is anticipated that this will be difficult to pursue. However, it may be possible to agree who is to pay the costs and in what amount or in the event of a dispute to make an application on Form D11.
Do I need legal advice?
A family solicitor can help you with the divorce/dissolution process itself and to make this as smooth as possible.
There may be some scenarios where legal advice is important, for example:
- Where there is a problem about serving the divorce application on the Respondent.
- Where the Respondent lives overseas (the rules for international service will not change).
- Where divorce jurisdictional issues or options need to be considered (as this can significantly affect the financial outcome).
- Where the relationship deteriorates, and one party is not taking the necessary action or steps to progress the divorce.
- Inevitable there will be separate financial and/or children issues to consider (and please see below).
Beyond the new digital system
The new divorce and dissolution system is to minimise conflict between couples and essentially to end the relationship with dignity. These changes apply to the divorce/dissolution process only.
The laws in relation to the finances for example, the division of property, assets (including businesses), pensions and so on, together with income and maintenance issues, remain unaffected.
Similarly, there may be separate legal issues in relation to any children. Enshrined in the law remains the principle that the welfare of any minor child is paramount.
A family law solicitor can help you consider your legal rights and advise you on the best options for you.