New Divorce Procedure in UK
What is the new divorce procedure in UK? The divorce process does legally ends a marriage. From the 06/04/2022, the new law on divorce has come into place in England and Wales changing a law that was in place for 50 years.
It is important to note that a divorce does not end the financial link to each other or resolve the child arrangement issues. In order to deal with those issues such as assets, property, money or children, couples will need to make a separate application and get the correct legal advice as soon as possible to make sure these are also resolved. You can get more information via our family law page
– In order to apply for a divorce, you need to be married for at least a year.
– The divorce applications are now dealt with online and no paper application is accepted by the court.
– Couples do not have to blame each other anymore in order to apply for a divorce. The “no-fault” based divorce system means that you do not need to provide a reason for the breakdown of your marriage. Previously, couples had to show to the Court that their marriage had irretrievably broken down and they had to rely on one of the 5 facts which is now removed. The new law does state that a divorce application has to be accompanied by a statement by the applicant (or applicants) that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The court will now consider this statement as a conclusive evidence and make a divorce order.
– A divorce application can now be applied by one member of the couple (a sole applicant) or the application can be made jointly by both (joint applicants).
Step 1 –
For the sole application: the court will send the spouse (Respondent) a copy of the application by email and this will be followed by a letter from the court. The Respondent then will have 14 days to respond and return the Acknowledgement of Service Form. If no response is received there will then be a few options that can be followed by the applicant to progress the matter.
For joint application: once received the documents from the court, both parties need to send a form to the court stating they have received the notice of proceedings.
The person to initiate the joint application is called applicant 1 and the other party will be applicant 2. This is important to note because applicant 1 is the person who pays the court fee and completes most of the application form. When applicant 1 lodges the joint application with the court, it will be sent to applicant 2 to check details and add some further information. This is done on the online court portal.
Once applicant 2 has completed their part, it is sent back to applicant 1 to approve before it is finally issued. Both parties as applicants will need to file an Acknowledgment of Service when it has been issued by the court. You should then both apply together for the conditional order and the final order. If you feel that the other party is unreasonably delaying progressing the divorce, you can apply for the conditional order and/or the final order on your own. This “switches” the joint application to a sole application.
Responding to a divorce application: if your spouse has made the application for divorce as a sole applicant, the court will send you (the respondent) a copy of the application by email with a follow-up letter from the court with details of how to access the application. You will find the completed divorce application, the Notice of Proceedings, and the Acknowledgment of Service within this email.
In most instances you should receive the divorce application within 28 days of it being issued by the court. The applicant however can ask for permission to serve the application later than this.
You will need to fill in and return the Acknowledgment of Service to the court, usually within 14 days of receipt of the application. A solicitor can complete this document for you and file it at court. In some instances, you may feel there’s a need to ask the court to delay the divorce process until it has dealt with the financial issues. We can give you further advice if this is applicable in your situation.
In very rare circumstances, it is possible to dispute an application for divorce, for example, if there are queries about the validity of the marriage or a dispute over the jurisdiction. If this is the case, you will need to file an answer to the application explaining the grounds upon which you are disputing the proceedings. It is highly recommended you seek legal advice before responding to the divorce application.
Step 2 – Cooling off period
After the court has issued the application, there is a “cooling off” period of 20 weeks before you (or you and your spouse jointly) can apply for a conditional order which is the first
stage of the divorce.
A conditional order means that the court accepts you are entitled to a divorce, but it does not mean your divorce is final. In the eyes of the law, you are still married.
During this 20-week wait, you can work to resolve any financial arrangements, for example, what happens to any property, maintenance and division of other assets, including pensions, capital, business interests etc.
However, a court cannot approve a financial settlement (which is recorded in a document called a consent order), or make an order in contested proceedings, until the conditional order is pronounced.
Once you have filed the acknowledgement with the court and on the basis the divorce is not disputed, it is unlikely that you will need to do anything further and we will send the conditional order and final order to you when they are issued by the court.
If the applicant unduly delays in applying for the final order then 3 months after they could have first applied, it may be possible for you to ask the court to make the final order.
Step 3 – Conditional order
After the 20-week cooling-off period, your application for a conditional order will be reviewed by the court to check all the paperwork is in order. If it is, the court will then provide a date for the conditional order to be made.
You do not need to attend court for the making of this conditional order. The court will issue the order electronically.
Step 4 – Final order
Six weeks after the court makes the conditional order, you can apply to the court for a final order. This can be done as a sole applicant or joint applicants with your spouse.
This order legally ends your marriage.