ASK THE EXPERTS
In a series of blogs, we are putting questions to our expert lawyers here at Price Slater Gawne.
1. “No fault divorce” – What does it mean?
Until very recently, divorce law stated (and had done so since 1973) that it was necessary to evidence the fact that a marriage had broken down by using one of 5 factors. These are either
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for 2 years (very rarely used)
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation without consent.
The Divorce and Separation Act 2020 was grated Royal Assent on 25th June 2020 and will ultimately abolish those 5 factors.
When the Act comes into force (anticipated to be autumn 2021) either one party or now both parties apply for a divorce based upon the fact that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. That will be the only basis.
The court will grant a “conditional order” 20 weeks after the start of proceeding and then a final divorce order 6 weeks after the conditional order.
2. That sounds complicated – is it?
No. It’s definitely not complicated. We just file the application for a divorce order, wait 20 weeks before we can apply for the conditional order and then wait a further 6 weeks before we apply for the final divorce order.
It has removed the need to set out any fault in terms of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
These were the only grounds available if parties had not been separated for 2 years and some parties had to wait 5 years if the other spouse did not consent.
3. 20 weeks sounds a long time to have to wait…what happens if I want a divorce quicker than that?
Unfortunately, there is no way around waiting the 20 weeks for a conditional order to be granted and then a further 6 weeks until the final divorce order.
Usually, a divorce petition would take 5-6 months to progress through the Court in any event so family lawyers are not expecting too much of a change in the timescales. Possibly a little bit longer but the idea of a 20-week waiting time is to give any tense or heated situation time to calm down and to allow people to reflect on what can be a momentous decision.
As with the previous divorce procedure, often we will wait until financial matters are resolved particularly if there are pension funds involved.
4. What if my Husband/ Wife has been involved in a relationship and that is the reason for the breakdown of our marriage and I want to use that as a ground for divorce – can I do that?
Once the Act comes into force – which it is anticipated to be autumn 2021 or possibly spring 2022 – it will no longer be possible to do that.
Whatever the reason for the breakdown of your marriage, the only way to obtain a divorce order is to send in an application, wait for 20 weeks before obtaining the conditional order and a further 6 weeks before obtaining the final order.
If you feel very strongly about this, then you would need to start a divorce based upon adultery before autumn 2021…
5. Is this “no fault divorce” a good thing then?
Family lawyers generally think so. Resolution (the family lawyers solicitors group) have been campaigning for 30 years to get the divorce law changed as it was thought to be outdated and not reflective of the changes in views in society.
Juliet Harvey, national chair of Resolution, commented
“After more than 30 years of campaigning by our members and others who work to reduce conflict between separating couples, we are delighted that this historic Act will now become a reality.
Lawmakers have played a valuable role in helping make the divorce process kinder and less confrontational, and our members are no longer hindered by an outdated law which encouraged couples to play ‘the blame game’.
As a result, practitioners will be better able to support separating families to come to constructive, amicable arrangements that benefit everyone involved, particularly children.”
At Price Slater Gawne, we agree with the general consensus that it was time to end the “blame game” so that parties who are divorcing or dissolving their civil partnership can focus on resolving finances or arrangements for children without having acrimony added to a situation with allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
At Price Slater Gawne, we understand that it can be very difficult to make the decision to bring a relationship to an end and our expert solicitors with over 50 years of combined experience can help and advise you.
Whilst the Government have announced some easing of lockdown, our offices still remain closed but we can correspond with you by email and we can arrange interviews by phone, Teams, Facetime or Zoom.