The long-awaited Act for “no-fault” divorce was passed in June 2020. It is now due to become law on 6th April 2022.
The new legislation takes away all elements of pointing the blame in divorce, which have previously caused so much polarisation between couples and often leads to children becoming pawns in the middle.
Couples will be able to apply for divorce jointly and they can simply say the relationship has failed without holding either party responsible.
There will be a minimum of 20 weeks between application and divorce becoming final.
Changes in Divorce Processes
The Divorce Process will be faster, and it is hoped all matters will be resolved in a 20-week period, unlike now, where the financial settlement on divorce can often take over 12 months to sort out.
Couples going through separation need the process to be quickened so they can move on with their lives. Too often we hear stories of people still being embroiled in an acrimonious court case months after the couple’s first secernate. The new no-fault divorce process is designed to speed up the divorce, take away blame, and get the whole process resolved much quicker.
This timeframe of 20 weeks has been introduced to counter concerns – that the reforms will make divorce a quicker and easier option for couples, than trying to save their marriage. This ‘period of reflection’ will give couples an opportunity to reflect and work through their differences before committing to a divorce. It will also hopefully give the couples the chance to get all the ancillary matters, children, and finances within this time frame to give couples certainty moving forward.
The new process will still have two stages – conditional offer and final order. Although, there is the possibility of a separation agreement – a written agreement outlining the terms of the separation. A separation agreement will not end the marriage, but it can enable both people to agree on the terms of the separation.
Our Experts’ Opinion
Does the no-fault divorce go far enough? Not really, for us at Fair-Result.
Yes, it will take away the blame which should reduce some of the tension, but the financial settlement is still a little nebulous. Judges still have very wide discretion as to how they divide marital assets.
We believe new rules need introducing to clarify the court’s approach to the division of assets.
Since there are no fixed rules, it’s very difficult to advise a client with absolute certainty what a final consent order may look like. This can sometimes lead to parties not wanting to reach an agreement especially if one or both is particularly litigious.
How would we change things?
Baroness Deech in the House of Lords is championing the idea of reform. Her Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill, proposes the following:
- Making the starting point for the division of assets on divorce, a 50/50 split of the net value of the matrimonial assets acquired during the marriage. Courts could then consider several factors, including:
- Any agreement between the parties about ownership of specific property
- Dissipation of assets
- The needs of children
- Assets acquired before the marriage would be excluded
- Inheritances during the marriage would be ring-fenced unless the needs of one party justified including them in any division
- Maintenance would only be payable for five years
- Statutory recognition of pre and postnuptial agreements
At Fair-Result we support this approach! It leads to certainty and will also drive down costs for clients.