The new divorce legislation which came into force on 6th April 2022, means that couples are now able to obtain a divorce without one party having to apportion blame on the other.
Divorces are now granted purely on the basis that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, without being supported by one of the previous grounds of unreasonable behaviour, adultery, separation etc. It is important to note that as a result of the change in legislation, it is no longer possible to obtain a Divorce on the basis of any of the previous grounds.
The Respondent is no longer able to defend the proceedings in the usual way, but there are limited circumstances that proceedings can be delayed, such as jurisdictional issues, if the marriage was not valid to begin with or if the Respondent alleges fraud. The Respondent must now acknowledge the proceedings in order for the divorce to progress.
A divorce can be obtained by either Applicant 1 submitting a Divorce Application solely, or by both parties submitting a ‘joint’ Divorce Application. Once the proceedings have been issued by the Court, the Respondent or Applicant 2 should respond to the proceedings within 7 days of receipt. Simultaneously, Applicant 1 is given a 28-day time frame to prove service of the proceedings. If the 28-day period expires, then an application is required to be filed with the Court for an ‘extension of time’.
Once the Respondent has responded to the proceedings, the divorce is placed in a 20-week holding period before the Conditional Order (formerly known as Decree Nisi) can be applied for. It is for this reason that we often recommend starting the proceedings at the earliest opportunity in order to begin the 20-week holding period and avoid unnecessary delay.
Under the new ‘no fault’ divorce law, the 20-week holding period balances the rights of both parties, in the absence of showing one of the five previous grounds. This ensures that the decision to seek a divorce is a considered one, rather than a flippant one.
Final Order (formerly known as Decree Absolute) can be applied for 6 weeks after Conditional Order has been granted.