You may have seen the recent media coverage about ‘no fault divorce’ and the planned changes to divorce laws in the UK that will affect England and Wales. Lots of people have been asking when the law comes into place and 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 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).
To find out more about it, take a look at our helpful guide on the no-fault divorce bill and the meaning.
When did ‘no-fault divorce’ start?
No-fault divorce has already been implemented in other legal systems such as Scotland and Australia. However, the plans to implement the changes to divorce laws in England and Wales were only first confirmed in April 2019. This followed the Tini Owens ruling where Mrs Owens divorce was refused due to her husband contesting it. If you would like to learn more about this historic case and its impact on the new divorce laws you can read our post here.
When will No-Fault divorce become law in England and Wales?
The bill passed it’s second reading in Parliament and received Royal Assent in June 2020. However, couples won't be able to use ‘no-fault divorce’ in England and Wales until the 6th of April 2022.
The new ‘no-fault divorce’ laws were originally scheduled to be implemented by the government in Autumn 2021. However, on the 7th June 2021, officials announced that the technicalities around implementing such a big change were taking longer than expected and therefore they’ve had to delay the new laws until April 2022. This is to be expected as divorce laws have remained largely the same for over 50 years.
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 to divorce or end your civil partnership now, you’ll need to choose one of the five reasons to support the fact your marriage has broken down ‘irretrievably’:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Adultery (can't be used by same-sex couples)
- Two years separation
- Five years separation
If you need any help deciding which reason to divorce is most appropriate for you, call us today on 020 3004 4695, or book a free 15-minute call.
Are there reasons not to wait?
This depends on your personal situation and when you need to divorce. If you are planning on having a financial consent order as part of your divorce, then this can only be put before the court and made legally binding once your decree nisi has been granted and the court is satisfied you are entitled to divorce. If you must wait six months in addition to waiting for decree nisi (or conditional order as it will be known) you could be waiting a long time for your divorce 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.
Can I protect myself whilst I wait for when the ‘no-fault divorce’ law to come into place?
- 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.
- A separation agreement is different to a financial consent order, as it can't be automatically enforced by the court in the event of a dispute.
- A separation agreement is typically 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.
When can you get a no-fault divorce in the UK?
Scotland has had no-fault divorce for a number of years. Unfortunately 'no-fault divorce' is not available in Northern Ireland yet, please head to their government website for more information.
If you live or are domiciled in England and Wales, you will be able to use the no-fault divorce laws from the 6th of April 2022.
When no-fault divorce comes into place, how long will it take for a no-fault divorce in England and Wales?
No-fault divorce will take a minimum of six months due to the mandatory waiting period after filing for divorce/dissolution.
When no-fault divorce becomes law, how will it work in practice?
No-fault divorce helps reduce the acrimony associated with divorce/ dissolution. Couples will no longer have to decide who will divorce who and the current five reasons that you can choose from will be removed and replaced with no-fault divorce.