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16th March, 2022

No-fault divorce: couples urged to ‘act fast’ and understand their rights

broken paperclips in a chain

The introduction of a ‘no-fault’ divorce law will end the ‘blame game’ for couples seeking to terminate their marriage or civil partnership with, unlike the current system, neither party needing to apportion blame.

Couples planning to divorce have been urged to act fast and know their rights ahead of seismic changes to the law coming into force next month.

The legislation has been welcomed by family lawyers from top North West law firm Aaron & Partners, who have commented on its benefits – however they are now urging people who are considering a divorce to think carefully about their timing.

That’s because the Government has announced the online divorce system will be unavailable for over a week while changes are made at the end of March – meaning it is “vital” that if couples wish to begin proceedings, particularly under the existing law, it is done “as a matter of urgency”.

But “issues” are also expected in the implementation and practice of the new law, which may require individuals to seek legal advice and assistance as a result.

Katie Hughes-Beddows, Family Law Solicitor at Legal 500-ranked Aaron & Partners, said: “These are significant changes coming into play that will be welcomed by most and which will make a process known to be difficult and often traumatic, that bit easier.

“The changes aim to reduce conflict, with couples able to focus on resolving any issues ancillary to the divorce such as children arrangements and finances.

“But changing the law is never straightforward, and we don’t expect the process to be without issue.”

“If you’re planning to file for divorce over the coming few weeks, it’s vital you have all of the information to hand about both the current and new law – and seek legal advice if needed. If you’re looking to file a divorce under the current law, you’ll need to act fast and before 31 March 2022.”

Currently, to divorce, one person must evidence the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage by way of adultery, unreasonable behaviour, two years’ separation with consent,  five years’ separation or desertion.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020reforms the existing law to provide the new ‘no fault’ basis.

Instead of relying on one of the current five facts, it requires there to be just a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’.

Katie Hughes-Beddows said it will mean that along with the mandatory use of online divorce applications via the Government website, it will now be easier for individuals to navigate the process themselves without the need for legal assistance. Katie added that it is however important to understand that the divorce only ends the marriage and the final order of divorce does not resolve financial claims arising from the marriage or civil partnership. This is one aspect which remains unchanged with the new divorce law and where obtaining legal advice can be of great benefit.

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