Whether you want a divorce or separation or are heading down that route reluctantly, having a strong team supporting you and giving you clear, practical advice will make all the difference. The keys to achieving a good outcome for you is understanding where you stand, knowing what the process is and ensuring that you remain in control.
No fault divorce – the end of the blame game
No-fault divorce is new law in England and Wales introduced on 6 April 2022. This means if you want a divorce, you can now cite an irretrievable breakdown of your marriage without having to rely on one of the five facts. This new law is designed to make the divorce process easier and less stressful so you can avoid entering the blame game and focus on making important decisions for you and your family.
Another big change is that a divorce can no longer be contested unless the marriage is not valid and lack of jurisdiction (this should be rare). This will help to prevent divorces from being dragged out and life being made more difficult for one spouse by the other.
Not every marriage ends because of adultery or other unreasonable behaviour. No-fault divorce better reflects these circumstances and suits modern society’s attitude and understanding towards relationships and marriage.
The divorce process
In many cases, divorce proceedings are straightforward and our role is to guide you through the process to an outcome that is fair to you and allows you to move on with your life. However, complications sometimes arise, for example, if the other spouse’s whereabouts are unknown or if they do not respond to the court papers. We are experienced in resolving these difficulties as amicably as possible whilst ensuring your position is respected and a fair outcome for you.
If you want to apply for no-fault divorce, you can do this solely or jointly online, or you can ask a family lawyer to draft the documents for you to make the process easier.
For separating couples in a civil partnership the process is the same as a divorce but the terminology is different.
Get in touch with our divorce solicitors in St Albans
If you need assistance with a divorce or separation or any other areas of family law, please contact us today.
Why choose Debenhams Ottaway’s family team?
- We have a long history of looking after couples and families in St Albans, across Hertfordshire and beyond
- Our team and lawyers are ranked in the leading legal directories Chambers UK and The Legal 500 (tier 1) for family law
- We have the right people and technical excellence to look after you – our lawyers are Law Society accredited for Family Law Advanced and accredited Resolution specialists in complex financial remedies and cohabitation
- Our family team is described as “one of the strongest outside London and holds its own in all cases” – The Legal 500
Frequently asked questions about divorce and separation
The only ground for divorce or dissolution is that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. With “no fault” divorce which came into effect from 6 April 2022 in England and Wales, you no longer have to prove one of five facts (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent or five years separation without consent). Instead, this has been replaced by a simple statement that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
On 6 April 2022, the no-fault divorce legislation came into effect which means that neither party needs to provide a reason as to why they are divorcing. With this change, comes a change to the terminology:
- Divorce petition is now referred to as the divorce application
- The petitioner is now the applicant
- A decree Nisi is now a conditional order
- A decree Absolute is now a final order.
No. It does not make any difference to the final outcome. From 6 April 2022, there is no longer a fault-based system. Divorce or dissolution proceedings can be issued either by a sole application or a joint application.
You do not need a solicitor to get a divorce or dissolution. You can issue the divorce application yourself, usually online. However, it is sensible to seek legal advice beforehand, particularly if the divorce involves international issues or there are financial issues and arrangements for the children to resolve. A solicitor cannot act for both parties to the divorce, save when it is a joint application. It is a good idea if each person obtains their own independent legal advice.
Divorce proceedings can be initiated if the husband and/or wife have been resident within England and Wales for a certain period and married for one year prior to presenting your divorce petition to the court.
There are two ways in which the divorce or dissolution proceedings can take place – the online process or the paper process via post. The vast majority of cases will be dealt with through the online process.
- The applicant (the person who applies for a divorce) submits the divorce application online with a scanned copy of the marriage certificate. The court fee to issue the application is £593.
- The court issues the petition and sends divorce documents to the respondent (the applicant’s spouse) if it is a sole application. If it is a joint application, then both parties will receive a copy of the issued application. In a joint application the respondent creates an online account and confirms to the court that they are in agreement that the joint application be issued and proceed.
- For a sole application, the respondent must complete and return the acknowledgement form to the court within seven working days. This confirms that they have received the application and indicates whether they agree with or dispute the proceedings. In a joint application, this step is not needed.
- The court processes the acknowledgement form (provided the respondent is not disputing the divorce or dissolution), and the 20-week ‘cooling off’ period is completed.
- Once 20 weeks have passed, the applicant (or both jointly) can apply for the conditional order when a judge will check the paperwork and confirm the divorce can proceed.
- Once the 6-week period has passed from the conditional order the applicant (or both jointly) can apply for the final order.
- Once the court processes the final order application, the divorce is complete and the marriage or civil partnership is legally dissolved.
There is now a minimum overall timeframe of 6 months (26 weeks). This is made up of:
- a 20-week period between the start of the proceedings and when the applicant can apply for the conditional order
- a 6-week between the conditional order and when this can be made final
A relatively straightforward divorce will usually take an average of 6-8 months from issuing the application to the making of the final order, depending on how quickly each order is applied for and any court time in dealing with the applications.
In a sole application, if the acknowledgment of service is served later than 18 weeks from the date of issue, then the applicant cannot apply for the conditional order until at least 14 days after service.
A separation agreement is a written agreement between the husband and wife, signed as a deed. It records the separation and can set any financial settlements agreed as well as the arrangements for care of the children.
Separation agreements were often entered into with a view to divorcing later on the basis of a two year separation. There are likely to be less separation agreements in the future with the introduction of the new no fault rules.
All parents are encouraged to discuss and agree the arrangements for the children taking into account what is in the best interests of the children. If they cannot agree they should consider whether discussions in mediation would be helpful. if they cannot resolve the issues they can make a court application. The court has a wide range of powers and can specify how the children divide their time and spend it with each parent.