You may have seen the recent media coverage about ‘no fault’ divorce and the planned changes to divorce laws in England & Wales. Lots of people have been asking whether they should wait for the law to change before filing their divorce petition. To help you decide what’s right for you, here are some points to consider. As always, you can contact us or book a free 15-minute-call to discuss your specific circumstances.
What do the new ‘No Fault’ divorce laws mean?
- The proposed changes will end the necessity for couples to blame each other or be separated for long periods of time. Instead, you will be able to give the court notice that you wish to divorce stating that you believe the marriage is beyond repair. This means ‘Irretrievable breakdown’ will remain the sole reason for divorce, but unlike now, you won’t have to give details (like saying your partner has committed adultery or detailing your partners ‘bad’ behaviour by writing a behaviour statement).
- You will be able to ‘give notice of your intention to divorce as an individual (like now) or as a couple.
- There will no longer be an option to contest the divorce… If one of you thinks it’s over – it is.
- There will still be two stages after giving notice, as now called Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.
- Every couple will have to go through a six-month minimum notification period
- The language used on the forms will be changed to get rid of archaic language. For example, what is now called a ‘Divorce Petition’ will be called ‘An application for divorce order’, ‘Decree Nisi’ will be changed to ‘Conditional Order of Divorce’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ will be changed to ‘Final Order of Divorce’
When will No-Fault divorce become law in England and Wales?
The bill passed it's second reading in Parliament and got Royal Assent in June 2020. However, don’t stop reading just yet, as couples won’t be able to actually divorce in England and Wales until 2021.
The most likely timing is Autumn, probably October 2021. Rule changes in the government tend to take place in April and October, however in this case there is probably too much to be sorted (the rules, the online process, the forms you’ll need to fill in etc) to be able to implement the new laws in April.
What should you do if you want to divorce or end your civil partnership now?
Even though the divorce laws have changed, if you want divorce or end your civil partnership now, you’ll need to choose one of the five reasons or wait until the new laws are implemented.
Are there reasons not to wait?
- If you are having a financial consent order as part of your divorce, then this can only be put before the court and made legally binding once you have reached the Decree Nisi stage of the divorce. If you must wait six months in addition to waiting for Decree Nisi you could be waiting a long time for thing to be finalised.
- There may also be tax implications to waiting to divorce if you own property and one of you has already moved out.
If I’m going to wait, can I protect myself if we’re just separating?
- If you’re going to separate before you divorce, then consider a separation agreement. This is an agreement between the two of you that sets out what will happen to your finances during your separation and before you get a financial consent order.
- Unlike a consent order, a separation agreement can't be automatically enforced by the court in the event of a dispute. Usually it is the basis for your consent order, but if one of you changes their mind, it can be used by the other in a court hearing to show what has happened so far and what you agreed was fair at the outset. A judge will usually give considerable weight to a separation agreement if it is properly drawn up, witnessed and was fair in the circumstances at the time.
For more information on No-Fault divorce, click here to listen to Nigel Shepherd recap the key changes and what the new Divorce Laws mean for couples in England and Wales on The Divorce Podcast. Nigel has been campaigning for no fault divorce for over 25 years and was awarded the John Cornwell Award for Outstanding Contribution to Family Law at the Jordans Family Law Awards in 2019.
If you’d like to talk about the impact of the change in the law to ‘No Fault Divorce’ you why not book a free 15-minute call with one of our friendly amicable experts.