The new no-fault divorce law replaces the current fault-based system on 6th April. Here is a guide to the no-fault divorce process as an individual (sole applicant) filing for divorce.
Individual or Joint Divorce Application?
Under the new law, anyone applying for a divorce or to end their civil partnership will be able to apply jointly or individually. A divorce application made by one applicant is known as a ‘sole application’. The person applying is the ‘Applicant’ or ‘sole applicant’, and their spouse/civil partner is the ‘Respondent’.
Sole applicants will not be able to change their application to a joint application, so the decision on whether to apply solely or jointly with the other party must be made at the start.
Can I Have A No-Fault Divorce?
You can get divorced in England or Wales if all the following statements are true:
- you’ve been married over 12 months
- your relationship has permanently broken down
- your marriage (including same-sex marriage) is legal in the UK
- the UK is yours or your spouses permanent home
What and the Grounds for a No-Fault Divorce?
Old divorce law requires – adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, 2 years’ separation, or 5 years’ separation. The new no-fault divorce removes the need for any of this, and requires simply a statement as to the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership.
Can My Ex Contest A No-Fault Divorce?
One of the most significant changes in the new no-fault divorce laws is removing the ability of the Respondent to defend the decision to divorce or end the civil partnership.
Respondents are not able to dispute whether the marriage has broken down. They can only dispute the application in the following limited circumstances:
- The court didn’t have jurisdiction to conduct the proceedings. For example, if neither of you had a permanent home in England and Wales.
- The marriage or civil partnership wasn’t legally recognised.
- The marriage or civil partnership has already been legally ended in proceedings outside of England and Wales.
How Long Will a No-Fault Divorce Take?
The new no-fault divorce will take a minimum of six months compared to divorces currently being finalised in three months. The longer time frame is down to a new mandatory 20 week’ cool-down period’ between the start of the process (when the court issues the application) and when the applicant(s) can make an application for a conditional order.
There is then a six-week gap between the conditional order being made final by the court. The complete process and timescales is shown below.
Obviously any financial agreement will also take longer too because of the new timescales. Therefore, If you and your spouse agree to a quick divorce, you might want to take advantage of the current laws (until 4pm on 31st March). You can read about the pros and cons of divorcing under the existing laws here.
Am I still able to Get Help With Court Fees with a No-Fault Divorce?
Yes, it’s the same as with the old law. Sole applicants can apply for help if you have little or no savings coupled with either certain benefits or a low income.
No-Fault Divorce – Individual Application
Step 1. Starting the application for divorce
Step 2. Official court process
Once the application has been submitted the court takes two weeks to officially start your divorce and begins the 20 week reflection period. The court sends your partner the divorce petition and they have 14 days to complete this and return with the and the Acknowledgement of Service (AOS) to the court.
Step 3. Apply for the conditional order
Once the 20 week cool-off period has passed, so long as the Respondent has returned the AOS, you then apply for the conditional order (previously known as the Decree Nisi).
Step 4. Court Review
Once your conditional order is received by the court, a legal advisor reviews the application which takes one or two weeks. If your divorce is approved, they will issue you with a Certificate of Entitlement to confirm the date of your conditional order.
Step 5. Conditional Order granted by the court
The date of the conditional order is 4 to 5 weeks from the certificate of entitlement. As soon as it is granted, the second mandatory waiting period of six weeks begins. During this time you are now able to submit a consent order to the court to make your financial agreements or clean break legally binding.
Not sure if you need a consent order? Read our article Do You Really Need A Consent Order When You Divorce?
Step 6. Applying for the Final Order
After the six weeks you can apply to the court for the Final Order (previously known as the Decree Absolute) to finalise your divorce.
Step 7. Final Order granted by the court
It only takes 24-48 hours after applying for the Final Order for the court to issue it. Once you have it, you are officially divorced (but not financially separate.) Keep this document safe, as it is your proof of divorce.
Hopefully you have found this guide for sole applicants to the new no-fault divorce process helpful. If you have any further queries about no-fault divorce (or divorce in general), you can email, call 0204 530 8101 or book in a free consultation with one of our friendly experts who will be happy to help.