If your marriage has broken down irretrievably then it may be necessary for you to obtain a divorce. There is no doubt that divorce is a traumatic time in a person’s life. At Hallmark Solicitors we try to minimise the stress and pain faced at this difficult time

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has reformed the process for divorce. The purpose of this Act is to reduce the potential for conflict amongst divorcing couples by:

  • removing the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse
  • allowing couples to end their marriage jointly

The Act introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the commencement of proceedings and an application for conditional order. This provides couples with a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to consider whether they want a divorce. Where divorce is inevitable, it enables couples to cooperate and plan for the future.

It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds including jurisdiction. This makes for a more gentle approach to a divorce which was lacking under the old system.

It must be shown that the marriage has broken down irretrievable, but instead of this being evidenced by one of five facts ie adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with consent or five years’ separation all that is now required is ‘a statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably’. The court must accept this as conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

Defending the divorce
Under the new no-fault divorce process, the Respondent (the person who has not applied for the divorce) cannot defend or contest the application to bring the marriage to an end and there are no facts to dispute. However the Respondent can challenge the divorce in limited circumstances such as arguing that the marriage is not valid in the first place or there is a lack of jurisdiction. This will mean that in the majority of cases the divorce should run smoothly with minimum costs.

20 weeks cooling-off period

This 20 week cooling off period means that the divorce is kept on hold for this period. This means that both parties will have the opportunity to agree practical arrangements concerning the breakup of the marriage. Once 20 weeks has taken place a conditional order is granted by the courts. A conditional order replaces the terminology Decree Nisi (confirmation you are entitled to divorce). In essence it means that the court has accepted that the marriage has broken down.

From the date of the conditional order there is a further 6-week and one day period before a final order is granted, ending the marriage or civil partnership. This replaces the old terminology of a Decree Absolute. The final order is the final divorce. You are free to remarry once you obtain this final order

How does the divorce process work

In broad terms the new no-fault divorce process is as follows:

  • One or both parties provide a legal statement to the court confirming that the marriage has broken down (the application is the name of the form used to commence the divorce).
  • The court will usually take on responsibility for service ie sending the application and if possible, it will do this via email. The court will also need to send a notice of confirmation to the Respondent’s postal address.
  • The Respondent has 14 days to reply to the application.
  • There is a 20 weeks cooling off period for reflection from the date the proceedings started before the conditional order for divorce can be made.
  • A further period of six weeks and one day ie 43 days must elapse after pronouncement of the conditional order, before the Applicant (the person commencing the divorce) can apply for a final order. A final order ends the marriage.

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