A client-friendly guide to the new no fault divorce regime

04/03/2022

Teena Dhanota-Jones summarises the changes to the divorce regime that will apply when no fault divorce is introduced on 6 April 2022. 

The government has set out some helpful guidelines about the new divorce laws at this link.

For simplicity, I have set out below the current law, which lasts until 31 March 2022, and the changes that come into force on 6 April 2022:

Current law until 31 March 2022 New law from 6 April 2022
You cannot issue divorce/dissolution proceedings in the first 12 months of your marriage/civil partnership. The law remains the same.
To commence divorce/dissolution proceedings, you must assert that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The law remains the same.
You must detail the reason for the breakdown using one of the following grounds:

 

1.     Adultery

2.     Unreasonable behaviour

3.     Two years separation with consent

4.     Two years desertion

5.     Five years separation

You do not need to cite the grounds for the divorce; blaming the other party is no longer necessary.
The norm is that one party issues the proceedings. A joint application or a sole application can be submitted to the court.
The party that issues generally applies for the subsequent orders necessary to progress and finalise the divorce. The subsequent orders can be applied for either individually or jointly.

 

 

The other party can defend the divorce proceedings on numerous grounds. The grounds to defend the divorce are now extremely limited:

 

1.     If there is an issue as to which country the proceedings should take place in (jurisdiction)

2.     If there is an allegation that there was no marriage (validity)

An order for costs can be pursued and is generally granted against the other party if the petition is based on adultery or unreasonable behaviour.  It is unclear whether such costs will be granted under the new scheme. It is likely the parties will be expected to agree costs in advance.
The timetable for progressing the divorce to the penultimate stage depended on the parties and workload on the court. On a joint application, either party can obtain the penultimate order 20 weeks after the application is issued. If it is a sole application, the same period applies provided the other party has returned their form to the court within 18 weeks.
Once the penultimate order has been granted, the final certificate cannot be obtained until six weeks and one day has elapsed. The law remains the same. 

The new terminology

The person who issues the petition is currently referred to as the ‘petitioner’; from 6 April, if a sole application is pursued, the issuing party will be ‘the applicant’. The divorce petition will be referred to as ‘the application’, the penultimate certificate (currently the decree nisi) will be known as the ‘conditional order’ and the final certificate (currently the decree absolute) will be the ‘divorce order’. While the new regime sets out limited grounds on which someone can defend a divorce petition, the word ‘defend’ has been replaced with the word ‘dispute’.

Point to consider

If you feel it necessary to blame your former partner for the divorce and pursue a costs order, you must issue your application no later than 31 March 2022.

If you have any queries regarding children proceedings on divorce, please email Teena Dhanota-Jones at tdj@portner.co.uk.