A look at all you need to know about no-fault divorce
Divorce law is changing. It is a big deal to divorce solicitors as they are interested in divorce law but, if you are thinking about a divorce, you don’t want to know all about the old divorce law, the rationale for divorce reform, and the interesting quirks in the new divorce legislation. You just want to know if you can get divorced and, just as importantly, if you can get custody or contact with the children and what will happen to the house and other assets.
For expert Divorce, Children and Financial Settlement advice call our team of specialist divorce lawyers or complete our online enquiry form.
At Evolve Family Law, our divorce solicitors believe in keeping things simple, so divorce and financial settlement solicitor, Robin Charrot, provides a quick guide to no-fault divorce.
Your divorce questions answered on:
- What is no-fault divorce?
- What are the grounds for a no-fault divorce?
- Who can apply for a no-fault divorce?
- The no-fault divorce Court process
- How long does a no-fault divorce take?
- No-fault divorce and child custody and contact
- No-fault divorce and financial settlements
What is no-fault divorce?
No-fault divorce is the name for the new divorce law. As you can probably guess from the name, fault has been removed from divorce proceedings so you can no longer start divorce proceedings based on your husband or wife’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
What are the grounds for a no-fault divorce?
To apply for a no-fault divorce, you need to file a divorce application and state that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. You do not need to say why and you don’t need to have been separated for a specified period. As the grounds are simplified it is no longer possible to contest or oppose a divorce other than in very unusual circumstances.
Who can apply for a no-fault divorce?
With a no-fault divorce application, you have three options:
- You and your spouse can apply jointly for a no-fault divorce or
- You can apply on your own for the divorce or
- Your husband or wife can make the divorce application
Whether you apply jointly or individually, it is a similar divorce process. If you apply together you are referred to as applicant one and applicant two. If you make the application, you will be the applicant and your husband or wife will be the respondent.
From a divorce solicitor perspective, we would probably prefer you to either make the application jointly or to make the application yourself, just so you are in control of the divorce process and so that it does not get stalled if you want to get your no-fault divorce as quickly as possible.
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The no-fault divorce Court process
The no-fault divorce process consists of four steps:
- You apply for a divorce – this could be a joint application or an application made by one of you.
- The applicant confirms they want to go ahead with the divorce.
- The Court makes a conditional Order – this used to be called the decree nisi of divorce.
- After a wait of six weeks, the applicant can apply for the final Order – this used to be called the decree absolute of divorce.
In between steps one and two there needs to be a twenty week wait. That period can’t be shortened as it is part of the new no-fault divorce law.
How long does a no-fault divorce take?
Divorce solicitors say no-fault divorces will take about six months from start of the divorce proceedings to final divorce Order but the timescales could be a bit longer if there are delays between the four stages. For example, because you want extra time to reflect or because you don’t want to progress the divorce proceedings over the Christmas period.
A no-fault divorce is therefore not a quickie divorce but it does have advantages. For example, as there is no need to blame your husband or wife for the marriage breakdown, a no-fault divorce may reduce acrimony and help you reach an agreement on child custody and contact or the financial settlement.
No-fault divorce and child custody and contact
In a no-fault divorce, the Court is not asked to decide on the residence and contact arrangements for your children after your divorce. Ideally you will be able to agree the parenting arrangements either direct, through help from family law solicitors, or in family mediation. If you can’t do so then either you or your husband or wife can make a separate application for a child arrangement Order. This Order will say if the care of the children is shared and will specify the residence and contact arrangements.
No-fault divorce and financial settlements
In a no-fault divorce the Court is not asked to decide who gets what assets in a financial settlement unless either you or your husband or wife ask the Court to do so. If you are able to reach a financial settlement by agreement you can jointly ask the Court to approve a financial consent Order.
If you can’t reach a financial settlement by agreement either one of you can file a document, called a form A, to start financial proceedings. There is then a series of Court hearings to ensure that financial disclosure takes place and assets are valued before a judge holds a final hearing to decide on the financial settlement and make a financial court Order. At any stage in the financial proceedings, you can reach an agreement and ask the Court to approve a financial consent Order.
The fact that divorce proceedings are based on no fault will not affect the amount you receive as a financial settlement because if a husband or wife has behaved very badly you can refer to this in the financial proceedings. However, behaviour has to be very extreme to affect a financial settlement and the behaviour needs to be linked to financial matters. For example, allegations of domestic violence may be relevant to the financial settlement if the victim of domestic abuse cannot work and needs spousal maintenance for a period of time because of the physical or emotional impact of the domestic violence on their ability to work.
If you have questions about the no-fault divorce Court process or need advice on children or financial settlement issues the divorce solicitors at Evolve Family Law are here to help.