Legal support through your divorce or separation

Going through a divorce or separation is often a stressful and emotional time for all those involved.  Our specialist team of Divorce and Separation Solicitors are on hand to guide you through the process, ensuring that each step is managed smoothly.

New Divorce Law Reform – an end to the ‘blame game’

After centuries of stagnation, it was announced on 25 June 2020 that the law in relation to Divorce was being modernised. This modernisation was after years of deliberation where all divorces had to be one party’s fault (unless you rely on separation) and this subsequently gave rise to the ‘blame game’. Whilst going through a divorce was stressful enough, this only made couples more hostile towards one another and subsequently meant that, in many circumstances, the relationship had already broken down, making it difficult to agree arrangements for the children or the finances of the marriage.

Fortunately, the passing of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 on June 2022 is going to change the law dramatically. This Act came into effect on 6 April 2022.  We summarise below what it will mean for couples who divorce after these changes come into effect.

Previous Divorce Law:

The law pre-April 2022 did not allow for married couples to start divorce proceedings without apportioning blame to the opposing spouse. The only way that one could obtain a divorce without apportioning blame was to wait for two long years and for the opposing spouse to consent to the divorce. This meant that if a married couple sought to divorce on amicable and ‘blame free’ terms they would have to be in an unhappy marriage for two years and hope that the opposing spouse would agree. 

The alternative to this route would be that the parties separate for five years which would abolish the need for consent. However, for a couple to remain married but separated for five years’ is far from ideal.  

For an immediate divorce, parties would have to rely on the ‘blame game’ to provide that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. This would mean that you would have to prove that one spouse has committed adultery or behaved in such a way that the other cannot reasonably be expected to live with them. 

As one can imagine, the opposing spouse would have to agree that they either committed adultery or behaved unreasonably. Thus, in most scenarios, the parties are forced to air their ‘dirty laundry’ and in most cases this adds fuel to the already burning fire. The system also made it easy for opposing spouses to easily defend the divorce or cross-petition which lead to Court hearings, meaning there were often significant delays and excessive costs.

So, how will the new law change the outdated current system?

No Fault Divorce:

The new law will mean that instead of attributing blame to one party, a married couple can mutually (or individually) state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down as the sole ground for obtaining a divorce. This major change would mean that the spouse applying for the divorce will simply need to state that the marriage has broken down without having to give evidence or examples of ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or ‘adultery’ if there is no requisite period of separation. Therefore, the old fashioned ‘facts’ system which required ‘blame’ or ‘separation’ has been abolished. 

This means that parties can divorce in a much less acrimonious fashion, thereby allowing them to concentrate on resolving other aspects of their divorce such as the child arrangements and financial settlement, without the need to blame each other. 

What is No-Fault Divorce

The Divorce Process

The new procedure has simplified the online process and has changed the old-fashioned language to meet with the current times. The ‘divorce petition’ will now be referred to as the ‘divorce application’.  The term ‘Decree Nisi’ will now become ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ will become the ‘Final Order’. 

Another major change is that once the divorce application has been filed with the court, the parties will have to wait for a minimum period of 20 weeks (5 months) prior to applying for the Conditional Order. This ‘waiting period’ is to allow the parties going through the divorce the opportunity to reflect. If the situation remains unchanged, the spouse applying for the divorce (or both jointly) will need to confirm they have reflected and seek to progress with the divorce. Only then will the Court confirm the Conditional Order. 

Once the Conditional Order has been made, the parties will have to wait a further 6 weeks before the application for the Final Order can be made. However, in most circumstances, parties will seek to resolve the financial aspects of their separation prior to applying for the Final Order. 

In theory, the whole process could take approximately 26 weeks.  Quite often however it will take longer, where there are financial issues that need to be resolved.  In circumstances where the financial settlement has not been agreed within 26 weeks it is common practice to delay applying for the Final Order until this has been resolved.  The reason for this is because there are certain rights that can be lost upon divorce such as pension and inheritance entitlements, should your spouse die before the financial settlement is reached. 

Separated couple discussing their rights to property

Criteria to apply for divorce

Before you proceed with a divorce, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. You must have been married for a minimum of one year, and
  2. You must meet one of the following jurisdiction requirements:
  • both parties to the marriage are habitually resident in England and Wales
  • both parties to the marriage were last habitually resident in England and Wales and one of them continues to reside there
  • the respondent is habitually resident in England and Wales
  • the applicant is habitually resident in England and Wales and has resided there for at least one year immediately before the application was made
  • both parties to the marriage are domiciled in England and Wales; or
  • either of the parties to the marriage is domiciled in England and Wales

You can apply even if you were married in another country, but it is very important in these circumstances to seek urgent advice to avoid a jurisdiction dispute.

Flow chart

We have produced a Divorce flowchart to show the process:

  1. Week 1 – Divorce Application (D8) lodged with Court as either a sole or joint applicant.  Court fee is currently £593. 
  2. Other party is to file an acknowledgement of service within 14 days.  
  3. Minimum 20 week waiting period following Divorce Application.
  4. After week 20 apply for the Conditional Order (once the application is acknowledged by your spouse).
  5. 6 weeks thereafter apply for the Final Order.

It is important to note that the financial aspects of Divorce are dealt with separately from the Divorce and you must reach a financial settlement to ensure this is legally binding.  Further information can be found on our Financial Settlement page.

Arrangements for children will also need to be dealt with separately.

How can we help you?

There are a number of ways Hepburn Delaney Solicitors can support you through your Divorce.  If your Divorce is going to be agreed between you and your spouse, we offer a fixed fee to undertake all the work from drafting the Application, right through to obtaining the Final Order.   The only additional cost will be the Court fee and any additional work associated with the financial settlement. 

Alternatively, if you wish to undertake this work yourself, we are happy to advise you on an ad hoc basis at our competitive hourly rates. The Divorce Application is the main document that must be completed and sent to the Court.  If you would like to prepare this form yourself it can be found here:

http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/FormFinder.do

If you decide to proceed with a Divorce we suggest that in the first instance you attend our initial fixed fee appointment when we can discuss your options in full.

Get in touch with our Hemel Hempstead based divorce solicitors to ensure that you understand your legal position, the process and what your entitlements are.

Call us on 01442 218090 or send an email to info@hepburndelaney.co.uk.

FAQs

Should I apply for the decree absolute before financial settlement?

It is advisable to have the financial settlement in place and agreed before you apply for a decree absolute to ensure your entitlement to certain assets are not at risk. Therefore in order to protect yourself it is advisable not to apply for the decree absolute until the financial settlement has been agreed.

What is a consent order?

A consent order is legal document drafted by a solicitor that explains to the court how you intend to split assets such as money, property, pensions and savings. If you have a situation where both parties have agreed the financial settlement the consent order will be sent to a judge for approval as part of the divorce proceedings but without the need for a court hearing.

Why are the financial aspects for divorce separate from the divorce process?

Divorce is the act of terminating the marriage by the Court and is not concerned with the Financial side of the marriage.

Can I get legal aid for divorce?

Legal Aid is no longer available to pay the legal costs of divorce or dissolution unless there are specific circumstances. We do not provide Divorce under Legal Aid.

There are several ways Hepburn Delaney Solicitors can support you through your divorce. If your divorce is going to be agreed between you and your spouse, we offer a fixed fee to undertake all the work from drafting the Petition, right through to obtaining the final order, Decree Absolute. The only additional cost will be the Court fee and any additional work associated with financial remedy.

Alternatively, we can offer ad-hoc advice at our competitive hourly rates.

My wife / husband has instructed Hepburn Delaney, can I also instruct you?

This is not possible as there would be a conflict of interest.

Do you offer Legal Aid for Mediation?

We do not provide Mediation under Legal Aid. We do however offer fixed fees for Mediation appointments.

Working with a family business

Hepburn Delaney was established in 2013 by Jane Hepburn and Rebecca Delaney who had worked together for several years before deciding to set up a specialist family law practice. Our intention has always been to provide a niche, bespoke service to clients seeking advice on a broad range of family matters and we remain committed to this approach.

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