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Divorce changes for the first time in half a century!

05 Apr 2022

From 6th April 2022 the divorce procedure is to be simplified for the first time in half a century.

Gone are the requirements to apply on the basis of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or a period of at least two years separation.

After the change, if one spouse decides the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they can apply for a divorce.

There will also be an option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process.

The ability to contest a divorce is removed (save for cases where there is an allegation that the parties were never validly married, or where a party claims that the English Court doesn’t have jurisdiction to process a divorce).

There will be a new minimum timeframe of 6 months, from application to final divorce: twenty weeks from the application stage to the decree nisi (to be re-named “conditional order”) followed by six weeks from the decree nisi to the final, decree absolute stage (to be renamed “final order”).

It is felt that establishing the minimum initial twenty-week timeframe will provide the applicant with a meaningful period of reflection and the opportunity to turn back. The divorce will not be automatic at a fixed date at the end of the minimum timeframe and will still require the applicant to confirm that they wish for the divorce process to be concluded.

The requirement that the parties must wait until they have been married for 12 months still remains, despite the reforms.

The same changes will also be made to the law relating to the dissolution of a civil partnership which broadly mirrors the legal process for obtaining a divorce.

Although the new procedure will take at least six months, it is usually sensible for the applicant in a divorce to ensure that there is a legally binding Financial Remedy Order in place, formalising a financial settlement between the parties, before finalising the divorce.  Unless the parties’ assets are straightforward, it may take longer than six months for an agreement to be negotiated and thereafter a Financial Remedy Order prepared and submitted to the Court for approval to become legally binding.

If parties cannot agree on how to divide their finances, they may need to make an application to the Court for a Judge to determine this.  These Court applications often take more than a year to conclude, and it is normally best to wait until the conclusion of these proceedings before finalising the divorce.

Divorce Decree

The changes are well overdue and welcome. Now, when a marriage has broken down and people want a fresh start and a new beginning, they no longer have to look backwards and blame the other party which inevitably increases conflict at what is already a very emotional time, and can be damaging to children.

Parents are encouraged to reach their own agreement about when and for how long the children spend time with each parent.  If the parents cannot reach an agreement directly, it is recommended they attend family mediation, to try to reach an agreement in that forum.  If mediation is unsuitable then, as a last resort, parents can make an application to the Court for the Court to consider the child arrangements and impose an arrangement on the parents and children.  This process is entirely separate from the divorce process.

At Hay & Kilner we have a wealth of experience in dealing with divorce, child arrangements, financial settlements (for married and unmarried couples) and Pre-Nuptial Agreements.  We pride ourselves on delivering excellent client care with value for money.  We currently charge approximately £650.00 plus VAT for an uncontested divorce.  There is also a Court fee of £593.00.

Advice regarding child arrangements and financial settlements depend upon the complexity of the case.

We offer an initial consultation at a cost of £150.00 plus VAT for the first hour.  Any time spent thereafter is charged on an hourly rate basis which is dependent upon the experience of the lawyer. During the initial consultation, we would be able to provide you with an estimate of your likely costs for any further work that you request us to carry out on your behalf.

For further information, please contact Nicola Matthews on 0191 232 8345 or via Nicola.matthews@hay-kilner.co.uk.