What are the steps to no fault divorce?

Prior to April 2022 couples who wanted to divorce based on no fault, had to wait two years from separation to issue on that basis, with the consent of their partner. If couples wanted to divorce prior to this, then blame had to be applied to their spouse. There were no further options available. Now couples can seek a divorce, after one year of marriage, without having to apply blame to their former partner.

Kirsty Tighe head of our Family Team at Kidd & Spoor sets out a step-by-step guide as to the new No Fault Divorce. The introduction of this new law will hopefully allow the divorce process and financial discussions proceed more amicably and allow for better relationships between divorcing spouses.

Step 1 – Consult a family Solicitor

Taking the step to discuss the potential of divorce is not an easy step to take. The result will mean big changes for your family, finances and potentially any children arrangements. Whilst appointing a lawyer is not necessary for divorce, it is important you speak to a family solicitor about the implications that follow divorce and how they can be resolved.

We will arrange a fixed fee initial consultation with you to understand your circumstances to allow us to provide you with the help and assistance needed and work out a plan to help achieve your desired conclusion.

Step 2 – The application

Once you have confirmed that you wish to proceed with a divorce, we will ask that you provide your Marriage Certificate and will draft the divorce application, required by the Court. You need to be married one year before you apply for a divorce.

You and your spouse can either jointly apply for a divorce or you can apply solely. Whatever which way you decide to apply, we can assist you in drafting the necessary paperwork and submission to the Court. There is a court fee payable to the Court, when applying for divorce and the fee is £593.00. We will then lodge the application together with Marriage Certificate with the Court and pay the court fee.

Step 3 – Awaiting for Court papers

Once the divorce application has been lodged with the Court, the Court will then process the application. This is called “issuing” your divorce. The timescale often varies but is usually around two to six weeks. Your case will be added to the Court system, will be given a Case Number and your papers will be stamped by the Court, known as the Court’s seal. After this the Court will then return the “issued” papers.

Step 4 – The Acknowledgement of Service

At this stage you confirm to the Court that you have received the issued papers and that you wish to proceed. This is done by way of an Acknowledgement of Service. If you have issued a joint application then both you and your spouse will need to complete the form. If you have applied for a divorce, in your sole name, it is your former spouse who will need to complete this.

Your former spouse will have 14 days from the date of service of the application to respond to the Court and confirm whether they intend to dispute the divorce, or allow it to continue undefended. If they wish to defend the divorce then they must explain their reasons why, under the new law, there are very limited reasons the Court will allow.

If your former spouse fails to return the Acknowledgement of Service, then we will proceed with the divorce on an undefended basis and discuss with you the options moving forward on how to do that.

Step 5 – Reflection Period

Once the Acknowledgement of Service has been filed. The divorce enters into a 20 week reflection period, this is calculated from 20 weeks from the date the divorce application was issued by the Court.

During this period, it allows discussions in relation to financial matters to be discussed. Divorce itself does not dissolve financial matters and therefore it is essential, with the help of lawyers, to reach a agreement in relation to financial matters that have arose as a result of your marriage. Once an agreement has been reached, this can be reflected in a Court Order, which is enforceable through the Court. If it is not possible for an financial agreement, then you may have to issue separate proceedings, called “Financial Remedy Proceedings” and ask the Court to determine how the marital assets should be divided.

Furthermore, a divorce does not determine any arrangements in relation to children such as to where they are to reside. Most separating couples are able to agree these arrangements between themselves or with some help from their legal representatives. If you have any queries or questions regarding arrangements for your children we will be able to advise and assist you to help reach the best possible outcome in the most amicable way that benefits your family. If an agreement is not possible, then we will be able to discuss with you the possibility of mediation or court proceedings in relation to the arrangements for your children.

The 20-week reflection period is a minimum period, and discussions in relation to financial matters and the like can go beyond this time if needed.

We will be able to provide full assistance in relation to the division of marital assets and arrangements for children.

Step 6 – Conditional Order

Once the 20-week reflection period has passed, we will be in a position to apply for your Conditional Order for Divorce (this was previously called Decree Nisi, under the old Law).

This is an Order from the Court, confirming there is no legal reason as to why you cannot divorce. If the Court are satisfied they provide a “Certificate of Entitlement” which provides a date and time as to when your Conditional Order will be granted.

If your divorce proceeds on a undefended basis, there will be no need for either you or your former spouse to be at Court when your Conditional Order is pronounced.

Step 7 – The six-week cooling off period

Once Conditional Order is granted by the Court, you cannot apply for your Final Order (previously called a Decree Absolute) until six weeks and one day from the date of the Conditional Order. This has followed on from the previous process and is a cooling off period to allow you to thing about whether you wish to dissolve your marriage.

Step 8 – Final Order

After the six-week cooling off period has elapsed, we can apply for your Final Order (previously Decree Absolute). Once this Order is granted by the Court, your divorce is legally finalised and your marriage dissolved.

How we can help

We understand and appreciate how hard and upsetting it can be to make the decision that you wish for your marriage to come an end. If you are contemplating divorce or would just like some advice of the steps involved and where you stand in terms of a separation, then please contact our Family Department on 0191 297 0011 or email familywhitleybay@kiddspoorlaw.co.uk

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice.