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No-Fault Divorce Reform | Cutting the Cost of Divorce

Family Matters

The UK’s divorce laws are undergoing a transformation. From the 6th April 2022 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (the ‘DDSA’) brings substantial changes to the divorce process in England and Wales. The Act provides for the biggest reform of divorce law in fifty years and aims to reduce conflict between couples legally ending a marriage or civil partnership.

Chris Brown, Family Solicitor at Hegarty Solicitors discusses how the reforms will change the process of divorce and how we plan to cut the cost of divorce to enable more families to access the legal support they need.

How will the reforms change divorce?

The new legislation was announced following public consultation and sees the UK’s divorce laws remove the requirement to give a reason, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, for the breakdown of the marriage.

The most significant changes are:

  • It will no longer be necessary to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage through anything other than a signed statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This replaces the previous requirement to rely on adultery, behaviour, separation (2 years or 5 years) or desertion.
  • Joint applications will be possible, as well as sole applications still.
  • Either party will be able to apply for the Conditional Order (formerly Decree Nisi) and Final Order (formerly Decree Absolute) once the relevant period of time has passed.
  • There will be a mandatory 20-week ‘cooling-off’ period between the date the application is issued and the date you can apply for the Conditional Order. This means that, once you factor in the mandatory six weeks between the Court making the Conditional Order and being able to apply for the Final Order, a divorce will take no less than six months from start to finish.
  • Service of the divorce application in most cases will now be by email, although the Court will write to the other spouse informing them that they have been served by email.
  • An applicant will no longer be prompted in the application to request an order for costs, and any application for an order for costs will need to be made separately.

When can I apply for a divorce under the new rules?

If a couple wishes to divorce under the current law, their applications must be submitted via the online portal by 4pm on 31st March. However, if they wish to apply for divorce following the introduction of no-fault divorce, they can do so from 6th April but may wish to seek advice now to prepare for their application.

Will there be more divorces under the reforms?

There has been much speculation about the impact of the new divorce laws on families in the UK and whether the reforms will lead to more divorces. As a no-fault divorce cannot be contested, and ill behaviour does not have to be proven, the number of divorces seen on the UK landscape could feasibly increase. However, in Scotland, where no-fault divorce after one year of living apart was introduced in 2006, the long-term divorce rate was unaffected by reforms to the law and the new process incorporates a mandatory ‘cooling-off’ period to allow couples time to reflect during the process to ensure divorce is the right choice for them.

Cutting the Cost of Divorce

At Hegarty Solicitors, we recognise that many people will still prefer to have a Solicitor make the divorce application on their behalf, to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible and that nothing is missed. However, we expect the amount of work involved in the divorce process will reduce as a result of the changes, we have therefore halved the cost of our fixed fee divorce package for divorces under the new rules to reflect this.

We want to ensure everyone has access to legal assistance with their divorce and our new fixed fee divorce package costs just £300+VAT plus court fees, to act for a sole or joint applicant, or a respondent in a divorce. The new price for the Hegarty Solicitors fixed fee divorce applies from 6 April for divorces issued under the new law.

For further information about divorce and separation, contact the Hegarty Solicitors family law team for trusted, confidential advice, call 01733 346 333, email info@hegarty.co.uk or visit www.hegarty.co.uk/divorce.

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