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No-Fault Divorce - What we know so far

View profile for Jonathan Whettingsteel
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No-Fault Divorce - What we know so far

After years of campaigning by many of those involved in the legal profession, including The Law Society and Resolution, next month ‘No-Fault Divorce’ becomes law.

Having been sought for many years it was not until the case of Tini Owens came before the Supreme Court in 2018 that the issue gained momentum. The President of the Family Law Division at the time, Sir James Mumby, remarked that Mrs Owens should not remain ‘trapped in a loveless marriage’ but ‘reluctantly’ she was not entitled to a divorce due to not having made out the required grounds.

Basically, Mrs Owens could not demonstrate that the marriage had irretrievably broken down due to Mr Owens’ unreasonable behaviour and it was this perceived unfairness that caught the attention of the media, public and legal profession.

So what do we know so far about ‘No-Fault Divorce’?

When?

No fault divorce is due to become available from 6th April 2022, (however, there is still a risk this could be pushed back)

What is the process?

It is understood parties will be able to file either a sole or joint statement stating that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This would be in place of citing examples of unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion or years of separation.

There will then be a ‘cooling off period’ where parties will be required to wait 20 weeks. At the end of this period the court will make a ‘conditional order’ (this will replace Decree Nisi)  and confirm the court is satisfied the marriage has broken down beyond reconciliation and the parties are entitled to a divorce.

Following the conditional order, parties will then have to wait a further six week before being able to apply for a final order ending the marriage. This is the same as the current procedure, with parties having to wait six weeks between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.

Will my Spouse need to agree?

It is believed the answer is no. A party can file a sole statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. However the Respondent can still contest on the grounds that they believe the marriage has not broken down beyond reconciliation.

This is based on the guidance and information provided so far, but it should be noted this may still change. If you wish to know more then you can contact Jonathan on 01962 844333 or at j.whettingsteel@duttongregory.co.uk