Over the past few years, the courts have been altering the divorce procedure and from last year all new divorces across England and Wales are now made online through the court portal. It has allowed people to be able to resolve matrimonial matters without having to post documents or attend court buildings to deliver papers, making the situation quicker and easier.
Even more changes are due to take place when The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force from 6 April 2022. It covers marriage, civil partnership and nullity. This will see the biggest change in family law for decades and will allow couples to divorce more amicably and with a no-fault divorce being available.
This is a huge change and will allow people who have been unhappy in their relationships for years to be able to file an application for a divorce to allow them to move on with their lives.
The current procedure allows one spouse to divorce the other on the basis they have been married for over 1 year and the marriage has broken down irretrievably, unless the parties agree to a divorce on the grounds of separation after spending a period of 2 years apart, then a petition of adultery or behaviour must be filed, or they have to wait until they have been separated for 5 years. This can often cause unnecessary bitterness and can be very upsetting, especially if there are children from the relationship. If there is domestic violence in the relationship it can make a person feel trapped and continue being controlled. The delay in resolving matters can inflame the situation and increase legal costs and stress for both concerned.
The new process will see a number of changes and will allow a person or couple to apply for a divorce on their own or together, it will no longer be called a divorce petition but an Application and can be filed online by one or both of the couple.
The Application will then have to be served on the other spouse within 28 days and this will be able to be carried out by email, saving cost and time for the parties. The Application will need to be acknowledged by the other party and then following the compulsory 20 weeks from the date of issue, either party can apply to the court for the first order.
The divorce will take at least 26 weeks and could take longer depending on court delays and procedural steps being followed. There are still two stages to the divorce, the first which was called the decree nisi is now called the Conditional Order and will be made by the court when it is satisfied the grounds for divorce have been shown after the 20-week period.
Following the Conditional Order being made either party can apply for the final order, previously called the decree absolute, now called the Divorce Order.
The process should be less acrimonious for parties who agree on a divorce and want matters to be finalised in a reasonable manner, the application is straight forward, and service is easier by email, avoiding postal charges and difficulties if one party lives abroad.
The ability for either party to apply for each stage may see one party start the divorce, the other apply for the conditional order and the first applying for the final order but it will allow both to be involved in the process.
There may still be issues regarding children and finances which need discussion, this will not automatically be resolved when the divorce concludes, and it is recommended that couples seek assistance from mediators and solicitors if issues are not agreed as early as possible.
As previously, the court do not automatically make any orders regarding children, if there is an agreement the parents can carry on and no order is needed, if however, there is not an agreement the parents should initially seek assistance from a mediator to try to resolve the matter.
Finances will be mentioned on the divorce Application, but a final order will not be made, and it is very important for discussions to take place as soon as the divorce starts to try to resolve matters amicably so that a consent order can be filed online setting out the final order which has been agreed. If an agreement is not reached again mediation should be attempted.
At Hopkins Law we have expert Solicitors and Legal Executives at each of our offices, able to help with the new process and guide you through every step of your divorce. If you want to discuss making a divorce Application or any issues regarding your children or finances, contact us and we will help you move forward.