The holiday season can create a deceptive facade of happiness, with twinkling lights, festive decorations, and a pervasive sense of joy in the air. Couples may find themselves caught up in the illusion of merriment, masking underlying issues that resurface as the season concludes. Stress, financial strain, and unmet expectations can magnify existing problems, prompting some individuals to reassess the state of their union.

This article considers 12 points that you should be aware of if you are considering or are currently involved in divorce proceedings. 

1. No more blame 

Under the new divorce process, which came into force in April 2022, there is no requirement to prove fault as required under the old process, which only allowed applications for divorce where one party was able to prove adultery, desertion, two years’ separation (with consent), five years’ separation, or that their spouse behaved in such a way that they could not be reasonably expected to live with them. Now, one party only needs to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably under the new process.

2. Apply together

Spouses are able to make applications jointly under the new process, which means that they can complete the application and make their statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage together.

3. Can I say no?

It is still possible to make an application for divorce alone. Under the old divorce process, a party served with a petition for divorce that wished to contest the divorce could do so when filing their acknowledgment of service with the court. Generally, the option to contest the divorce has been removed under the new process. 

4. It’s all online

Applications for divorce, and each stage thereafter, can now completed via a government online portal, although postal applications are accepted in some circumstances.  

5. The paperwork

When applying for a divorce, you will need your original marriage certificate or a certified copy. Where the marriage certificate is not written in English, you will also need an official translation. If you have had a name change since you were married, such that your current legal name differs from the name on your marriage certificate, you will need to provide proof of the name change. 

6. Previous applications

If you applied for a divorce previously but then reconciled, you must ensure that any previous applications for divorce, whether they were made under the old law or new law, are formally withdrawn before submitting a new application. This is a relevant consideration where an application for divorce was made, following which the parties reconciled, separated again later and wish to make a new application for divorce. 

7. Conditional Order

Once both parties have accepted that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, the parties can apply to the court for a Conditional Order. The Conditional Order is the penultimate stage to obtaining a divorce. This stage was formerly known as ‘Decree Nisi’ under the old process.

8. Finances

Once the divorce process has started, the parties can make an application to the court to resolve their finances. It is only when a Conditional Order in the divorce has been granted that the court has the power to approve a financial agreement.

9. The Final Order

Once a Final Order has been granted, the marriage has been formally dissolved and the financial order becomes effective and enforceable. Under the old law, this stage was known as ‘Decree Absolute.’

10. Obtaining a Final Order before resolving your finances

There are risks associated with obtaining the Final Order in divorce proceedings before obtaining a final order in the financial proceedings. For example, one spouse can lose out on rights to the other’s death in service benefits if they die unexpectedly, there may be additional tax liabilities when they are no longer legally married, or a spouse can lose their rights to make any financial claims on remarriage. It is therefore best to obtain specialist legal advice regarding your finances before applying for a Final Order.

11. Timescales

After the initial divorce application is made to the court, parties must wait 20 weeks before applying for their Conditional Order. The purpose of this ‘cooling-off’ period is to allow the parties time to consider whether they are certain about formally ending their marriage. After obtaining the Conditional Order, the parties must wait a further 6 weeks and one day before applying for the Final Order. This means that now, the divorce process overall takes a minimum of 26 weeks.

12. Counselling

Making the decision to separate or divorce is a serious one that can have long-lasting affects on a family. Sometimes problems that seem unsurmountable can be overcome with some help and guidance.  There are various well known relationship counselling organisations such as Relate that can provide support and impartial advice for couples who may be experiencing difficulties and approaching them may be a first step toward trying to resolve marital disharmony and avoiding permanent separation.

If the decision to divorce has been made, although the new legislation has attempted to simplify the process, there are still various rules and requirements that must be followed to ensure a smooth outcome. Taking legal advice at the first stage of this process often helps to demystify misconceptions about the law and procedure, thus helping to make the journey less stressful and problematic. 

Contact our Family Team at Vyman

Zharna Sutaria is the Head of the Family department, if you have any questions about divorce, finance or pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, why not her a call at Vyman Solicitors on 020 3927 7779 or email zharna.sutaria@vyman.co.uk

 

The content of this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. This content does not constitute legal advice, nor does it give rise to a solicitor/client relationship. Specialist legal advice should be taken in relation to specific circumstances.