The recent introduction of no-fault divorce represents a major change in how couples in England and Wales can dissolve marriages. Jennifer Pollock, a senior associate in family law at leading firm Irwin Mitchell LLP, provides clarity on the new law and how it works.
For decades, spouses had to prove adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years of separation (if both agreed to divorce), five years of separation, or two years of desertion to show the marriage broke down. This often fueled conflict.
The new no-fault divorce law eliminates these requirements. Now couples only need to state the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This streamlines the process and reduces acrimony. However, the respondent can contest the application on jurisdictional or procedural grounds.
The transition to no-fault divorce raises practical questions for couples such as: What is the process? Who pays fees? Can one solicitor represent both spouses? To address these common concerns, Pollock draws on her extensive expertise guiding clients through complex divorce cases.
A divorce could be finalised in seven months. There is a 20-week waiting period between filing and applying for the conditional order. This allows for reflection. After the conditional order, there is a six-week wait to apply for the final order legally ending the marriage.
For joint applications, the applicants commonly split the fee. If there is no agreement, the first applicant pays. For sole applications, the applicant pays in full. The respondent only pays costs in limited cases.
Some solicitors agree to joint instructions, but independent advice is advisable if finances must also be settled.
You can serve by email and send a postal notice to their last known address. If there is no address, apply to the court for alternative service options.
Sole applicants can proceed without consent. For joint applications, only one party needs to proceed. If a joint applicant wants to go solo, they must give 14 days’ notice. If the respondent wants to progress an inactive sole application, they must file a new case and wait at least 3 months from when the original applicant could have applied.
Pollock’s insights help demystify no-fault divorce. Her clear guidance empowers couples to move forward with greater confidence under the new law.