No-Fault Divorce - The Procedure and Timeframes

No-Fault Divorce – The Procedure and Timeframes

On the 6th April 2022, the law surrounding divorce was reformed. Here, Heather Lucy discusses the changes to divorce procedures and timeframes, and addresses the concerns of those couples who are already in the process of a divorce.

What do I have to do?

The new legislation means that people wanting to divorce will no longer have to provide evidence to show the court that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. Instead, the court will accept a statement from either, or both, spouses as sufficient evidence.

If you and your partner mutually agree that your relationship has broken down, but you wish to keep matters between you amicable, you may jointly file an application for divorce. You are both then termed ‘applicants’ as opposed to having an ‘applicant’ and a ‘respondent’.

Alternatively, one person can make the application for divorce. This does not necessarily mean that your case will be less amicable as there is no assignation of blame in this process. It does, however, mean that the person applying is more in the ‘driving seat’ of how fast the application is progressed.

Once the application has been issued by the court, there is a new waiting period of 20 weeks before the conditional order stage which is intended to give divorcing couples the time to reflect. This is the time when you can make an application to the court for them to say that, unless given reason otherwise, you will be entitled to a divorce after a second waiting period. It also enables them make an order about your finances.

It there is one applicant, they can apply for the conditional order by themselves. In a joint application, the applicants can apply for a conditional order together. If relations have soured and one person does not want to make the application, an application can be made by the other alone. This application must be served upon the other applicant who is then the ‘respondent’ for the rest of the proceedings.

There is a mandatory waiting period of 6 weeks after the conditional order before you can apply for the final order, bringing your marriage or civil partnership to a formal end. If there are two applicants, they can apply jointly for the final order. If there is one applicant (and the original application was made jointly), they must give 14 days’ notice to the other person (who becomes the respondent) that they intend to apply for the final order. In a sole application, the applicant can give notice and apply for the conditional order. If they do not do so within 3 months of being allowed to do so, the respondent can make an apply instead.

How long will it all take?

As above, there is a 20-week waiting period from the time the application is issued. There is then a second mandatory waiting period of 6 weeks from the conditional order before you can apply for a final order. This means that the shortest time in which you can get divorced will be 6 months. Unfortunately, this does not factor in court processing times which can vary greatly so it is sensible to anticipate some delay.

I am already in the process of a divorce, what happens to my case?

If your divorce is already in the works, you may be concerned about whether your proceedings are still valid and what this reform means for you. The good news is that the government has a plan. Your divorce will continue under the old regime. You will, if your matter proceeds to its conclusion, still get a decree absolute. If you did want to restart the proceedings to change the divorce to be ‘no-fault’, you would incur a fee for an application to withdraw your current proceedings and then the court costs for issuing the new proceedings.


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