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’ll 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.
- There is likely to be a waiting or notice period of six months from notification to final Decree Absolute.
When will the Bill become law?
- The bill is currently being debated in parliament so for now the current law remains in place.
- No timelines have been released for how quickly the Bill will pass into law and it could be many months before the law changes.
- There may be changes to the Bill such as the notice period you have to give before it’s made into law.
Will the new laws make divorcing quicker?
- If you are currently waiting for two five years separation to pass, then it is likely that the new laws will enable you to divorce more quickly.
- However, if you are intending to use a behaviour or adultery petition and your partner agrees with the divorce, a divorce can travel through the courts in three to four months. If the proposed notice period is approved, then a no-fault divorce may mean your divorce takes longer than it would under the current system.
Are there other 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 cannot 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.
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.
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