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Divorce – What has changed during the last 12 months?

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On 6 April 2022, divorce law in England and Wales underwent a radical change with the introduction of “no-fault” divorce, which aimed to modernise the out-dated system in place.  What has changed during the last 12 months?

Allegations of the other’s behaviour and the need to “blame” the other have been removed.   A couple who have simply drifted apart over time no longer need to wait 2 or 5 years. Contested divorce proceedings are a thing of the past.

Under the new law, one party makes a sole or joint application for divorce by stating that their marriage has irretrievably breakdown.  This has reduced hostility and encouraged many separating couples and their children to move forwards in a more conciliatory way.  Joint applications are less than anticipated because of the increased costs and administration required.

The process has become more straightforward and in some cases more cost-effective. However, as a result of the 20-week cooling-off period from the date of issue to applying for Conditional Order (previously called Decree Nisi), the process has become longer for many.

The focus is on a more user-friendly divorce process, which many now undertake themselves without legal advice or a solicitor.  The increased use of “DIY divorces” may have caused some people to overlook the financial side of their divorce.  Financial aspects should not be left to drift.

Many spouses do not realise that resolving financial matters is a separate process.  All financial aspects should be agreed including what happens to the family home, other properties, bank accounts, savings, investments, debts and pensions.

A spouse is still advised to resolve the financial aspects of their marriage before applying for the Final Divorce Order, (previously called Decree Absolute), which brings their marriage to an end.

The compulsory 20-week cooling-off period from the date of the issue of the divorce application can be used to good advantage to start negotiations.

An agreement may be reached between the parties direct, through mediation, through solicitors, through arbitration or by making an application to the court. Once an agreement has been reached it needs to be set out in a consent order and sealed by the court to provide certainty for both parties for the future.

It is important to seek advice early on to agree a strategy to resolve both divorce and financial matters in a timely and cost-proportionate way.

Wace Morgan has very experienced Family solicitors whom are able to accommodate meetings face-to-face, by telephone and by Zoom.  Please contact Sue Leach on 01743 284218 if you require any further information.

Sue Leach – Associate – Family Law Team