Divorce and Relationship Breakdown
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Divorce & Relationship Breakdown
The breakdown of a relationship is an upsetting and emotional time. At Beyond Legal our team of qualified divorce solicitors have years of experience in dealing with these cases.
Most clients want a quick and inexpensive divorce with minimal distress. You will find our solicitors for divorce to be sympathetic and sensitive to the issues you are facing. Most importantly, we support you with practical and clear advice to deal with these issues and the decisions you will have to make throughout. You will also find us robust in our dealings with others on your behalf. Our absolute commitment is to keep in mind the best outcome for you, and your children.
At Beyond Legal we have years of experience in dealing with divorces across England and Wales, as well as nationally and internationally, from our offices in Newton Abbot and Tiverton. Cases can, and often are, dealt with remotely using the very latest virtual means of communication. It is not necessary for you to instruct a divorce solicitor who is local to you. Avoid city rates by contacting us.
On 06 April 2022 the law relating to divorce changed dramatically. Contact us or read on to find out more.
The New Divorce Process
The New Divorce Law
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into effect on 06 April 2022. It introduces a no-fault divorce process that covers marriage, civil partnerships and nullity. It is the most fundamental divorce law change of our lifetime. It introduces a new basis for obtaining a divorce, as well as a completely new timetable. It allows single and joint online court applications and service by email. Many welcome the changes, but there are advantages and disadvantages to each party. Make sure you seek expert advice before issuing divorce proceedings.
What has changed?
Almost everything! Previously a ‘petitioner’ could issue divorce proceedings against the ‘respondent’ on the basis that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. However, the petitioner had to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage based on one of 5 facts.
Of these 5 facts, 3 apportioned blame to the respondent, those being (a) adultery, (b) unreasonable behaviour and (c) desertion. The remaining 2 facts were 2 years separation with the other party’s consent and 5 years separation.
When issuing a fault-based divorce, the petitioner could claim their divorce costs back from the other party. As the new process is no longer fault based, it is unlikely that divorce costs will be recoverable from the other party, other than in exceptional circumstances.
What is the new process?
The new process introduces a 26 week timetable from the commencement of divorce proceedings to the final divorce order being made, although some divorces will take longer because of procedural steps and/or court delays.
The process starts with the filing of the divorce application at court. One major change is that the divorce application can now be filed by either party or both parties simultaneously (known as a joint divorce application). Applications for conditional orders (currently known as decree nisi) and divorce orders (currently known as decree absolute) can be applied for individually or jointly irrespective of whether the original application was individual or joint. These changes are significant.
The 26-week period is divided into 20 weeks. The 20 weeks starts when the divorce application is issued by the court. After 20 weeks have elapsed an application can be made for the conditional order. 6 weeks after the conditional order has been made, the final divorce order can be applied for. The parties are officially divorced when the final divorce order is made by the court.
What are the changes to service of the divorce documents?
One of the most controversial elements of the new law relates to service of the divorce application. Under the new rules the applicant may decide not to serve the respondent with the divorce application until well into the 20 week period. The result of this is that the respondent may not be aware of the divorce until just 6 weeks before the final divorce order is made by the court.
It is anticipated that this loophole will be rectified soon. In the meantime, it is hoped that good practice will prevail and that applicants will serve the respondent with the divorce application within 28 days. The respondent would then have 16 weeks before the conditional order could be applied for, making a total of 22 weeks before the final divorce order is made by the court.
What else is new?
The new process is almost entirely digital with divorce applications and subsequent applications being filed at court online. The changes at last allow for the service of divorce applications by email. This has been a long time coming!
Are the changes good or bad?
On the whole the changes to the divorce process have been welcomed by the legal profession and are likely to be welcomed by the general public. There have long been plans for a no-fault divorce system to bring England and Wales into line with other countries.
Whereas the old law forced one party to apportion blame or wait 2 years before issuing divorce proceedings – 5 years if the other party did not consent, the new process gives the parties no option to apportion blame. It is hoped that this will benefit not only the parties themselves, but perhaps more importantly any children involved.
Having said this, aggrieved parties who have been wronged by an abusive or unfaithful partner, will no longer be able to apportion blame when perhaps they should be able to do so. Neither will wronged parties be able to claim back their divorce costs back from the other party. This could lead to further ill-feeling and financial hardship.
The impact on the respondent is both good and bad. A respondent is now unlikely to have a divorce costs order made against them because the applicant cannot apportion blame.
Is there anything else I should know?
Yes, the Act introduces some new divorce language.
Divorce Petitions become Divorce Applications
Petitioners become Applicants
Decree Nisi becomes Conditional Order
Decree Absolute becomes Final Divorce Order
Decree of Nullity becomes Nullity of Marriage Order
Decree of Judicial Separation becomes Judicial Separation Order
Defended Divorce becomes Disputed Divorce
How much does a divorce under the new law cost?
We are offering to conduct your divorce entirely free of charge provided we are also instructed to act on your behalf in connection with issues concerning children and/or finances. To be eligible for a free divorce, there must be a minimum spend of £1,000 plus VAT on children and/or financial issues.
The court will charge a fee for a divorce/judicial separation/civil partnership dissolution so you will need to cover this fee. The court fee is presently £593. It is likely that many parties will agree to apportion the court fee equally between them.
Do I still need a divorce solicitor?
It is vital that those wishing to divorce take legal advice on the relevant processes and on what comes next, including the division of assets, agreeing where the children will live, agreeing who will keep the family home and what will happen to the family pet. If they don’t, separating couples might find that the change in the law has done them more harm than good with unsuspecting parties to the divorce being left exposed and unable to cope and families left financially vulnerable.
Most people are totally unaware that unless their financial settlement is recorded in a Financial Remedy Order and approved by the Court, the terms are not legally binding or enforceable. Even if there are no assets or pensions to distribute (which is very unusual these days) there may be a discrepancy in income that warrants one party paying the other spousal maintenance. Even if all that is required is a clean break, this must still be recorded in a Financial Remedy Order and approved by the Court to protect both parties from financial claims against the other in the future.
How long will my divorce take?
Generally speaking the new divorce process takes 26 weeks from the divorce application to the final divorce order.
Will I have to attend court?
If the divorce is undefended neither party should have to attend court in relation to the divorce. Court attendances may be required if proceedings are issued that concern children or finances.
Ex-Pat Divorces – Can I get a divorce in the English courts if one of us no longer lives here?
In most cases, yes. It depends on where you and/or your spouse are domiciled and where you are habitually resident. Our team of expert family lawyers can advise you.It is often of benefit to clients to issue divorce proceedings in the English courts because the proceedings are quicker and cheaper than in many other jurisdictions. Also, the English courts may award a party a more generous financial settlement than courts where different laws apply. This is no doubt how London earned its status as divorce capital of the world!
How do we resolve arrangements for our children?
At Beyond Legal our team of qualified and highly experienced family lawyers can advise you concerning children issues arising from a divorce or separation. The court will not deal with these arrangements unless a separate application is made.
How do we resolve our finances?
At Beyond Legal we specialise in financial issues arising from a divorce or separation. Our expert team of family lawyers can advise you concerning financial settlements and financial remedy proceedings.
It is important to understand that finalising your divorce does not automatically finalise the financial aspect of your case. It remains open to either party to apply to the court for financial relief from their ex-spouse, even after they are divorced, if a clean break order has not been sealed (approved) by the Court. Our divorce solicitors are here to advise you.