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Will April see a rise in divorce enquiries? 

There has been a longstanding trend to name the first Monday in January ‘Divorce Day’ derived from the typical spike in enquiries family lawyers receive regarding divorce. However, with the long-awaited ‘no-fault divorce’ updates coming in to affect 6th April 2022, there is a strong opinion that this is when ‘Divorce Day’ will be this year.

 

What is no-fault divorce?

Under the current law, if you believe that the relationship has broken down irretrievably, you will need to rely on one of the five stated facts, namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, five years of separation without consent, two years of separation with consent or desertion. The new legislation states that either party will be able to request a divorce without relying on any of the five facts or citing blame to the other. The new bill is expected to make the divorce process less stressful and quicker to progress and has been the most significant reform to divorce law in 50 years.

Many people believe that those contemplating a divorce will wait until this date before filing.  

You can find the changes coming into force about the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 here. The new rules accompanying this, published on 18th January 2022 entitled the Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2022, can be found here: they amend the Family Procedure Rules 2010.

 

Will this make getting divorced easier? 

The new law aims to bring divorce in line with the Government’s approach to family justice – avoiding confrontation and acrimony where possible and helping to reduce the damaging effect separation can have on the family and children in particular.

Under the new law, couples can jointly start their divorce and state the reason as ‘no fault’. The new legislation aims to allow the divorce proceedings to progress more amicably and reduce the number of contested agreements on finances. Subsequently, it is hoped that this will lessen the burden on the Court systems to resolve disputes, which is currently hugely backlogged. Lawyers say that the new law will potentially make the divorce process less stressful for some couples. However, couples should not assume that quicky ‘no-fault’ divorces can be done without legal advice, especially when finances are concerned.  

Couples should also be aware that even if stating a reason as ‘no-fault’, under Rule 7.32, there is still the option for either party to seek costs, which could lead to parties using costs to attribute blame to one party. Although, it is more likely that courts will agree to this in situations where one spouse does not engage in the progression of the divorce, i.e., evading service or not completing the acknowledgement of service promptly. 

 

Financial Settlements and No-Fault Divorce 

Whilst the new changes will affect how couples can end their marriage, financial settlements will still be dealt with in a separate and parallel process which can continue after the divorce is final. Therefore, a no-fault divorce will not impact arrangements regarding children or finances. Some think that a less acrimonious and no-fault divorce could lead to quicker, less complicated financial settlements. However, there are concerns that acting in haste, and conducting a quicky ‘no-fault divorce’ without appropriate legal advice, could undermine the appropriate sharing of finances and the ability to negotiate an agreement in the best interests of all involved.

 

Proposed Reform Of Financial Rules

Baroness Deech in the House of Lords is championing the idea of reform to clarify the rules on the division of assets and to reform the law in this area. Her Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill, proposes the following:

  • Making the starting point for division of assets on divorce a 50/50 split of the net value of the matrimonial assets acquired during the marriage. Courts could then consider a number of factors, including:
  • Any agreement between the parties about ownership of specific property;
  • Dissipation of assets
  • The needs of children
  • Assets acquired before the marriage would be excluded
  • Inheritances during the marriage would be ring-fenced unless the needs of one party justified including them in any division
  • Maintenance would only be payable for five years
  • Statutory recognition of pre and post nuptial agreements

Baroness Deech’s bill has been approved by the House of Lords and is now due for discussion in the House of Commons. The proposed reforms have been met with wide criticism, not least the idea that there could be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to finances, especially when every family’s financial circumstances are different. Furthermore, the suggestion of a five-year maintenance limit has also been criticised, as cut off points such as this could unfairly penalise a spouse who may have given up a lucrative career to care for children.

 

How we can help

Even with a seemingly easier no-fault divorce process coming into force, we realise that the legal process of getting a divorce can seem daunting. Especially at what will likely be a challenging and emotional time. At Rose & Rose, our experienced solicitors are experts in all areas of family law, and we can assist with divorce, financial settlement, and separation agreements.

For further advice on divorce and other aspects of family law, please get in touch with our Family Law team today by calling 0208 974 7490 or email info@roselegal.co.uk.

This blog post is not intended to be taken as advice or acted upon. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our team of solicitors

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