No-Fault Divorce: How Is It Impacting the Legal Process?

It’s no secret that the divorce process can be stressful. Thanks to the introduction of no-fault divorce in April 2022, people around the country can separate from their partners without perpetrating the blame game.

Here, we will explore whether the introduction of no-fault divorce has had an impact on the divorce process so far, gaining insight from Winckworth Sherwood, a leading law firm.

No-fault divorce has given spouses the freedom to legally dissolve their marriage without proving that their relationship experienced certain hardships. These irreconcilable differences included anything from adultery to unreasonable behaviour.

No-fault divorce has transformed the nature of divorce in more ways than one. Here is a brief outline of some other ways the law has changed divorce.

Modernising language

The language that divorce lawyers are required to use has been simplified. Certain phrases have been modernised, such as “petition” changing to simply “apply”, and “decree nisi” to “conditional order”. This makes the whole divorce process more accessible and, in turn, less daunting for couples.

Joint applications

Divorce no longer needs to be a single application process. Now, if they choose to, couples can apply for divorce together, ensuring they leave their marriage as equals rather than as an applicant and respondent. This is beneficial for couples who remain on good terms.

Service

Technology is taking centre stage in the divorce process. It is now possible for the divorce application to be served on the respondent by email. In the technological age, this seems to be a logical progression for the courts.

Timing

To compensate for the removal of blame, the divorce process now takes around six months to complete. There must be a minimum of 20 weeks between the application and the conditional order, as well as another six weeks between the conditional offer and the final order. 

Defended divorces

Defended divorces are a thing of the past. It is now more difficult to dispute a divorce, and it can only be done on limited grounds relating to the validity of the marriage or the jurisdiction of the court.

How is no-fault divorce impacting the divorce process?

Not only has no-fault divorce transformed the legalities of divorce, but it may also have a lasting impact on divorce rates and the emotional challenges people face. Here’s a more detailed look at these two factors.

Increasing divorce rates

The effects of no-fault divorce were apparent within the blink of an eye. HM Courts & Tribunals Services (HMCTS) reported that there were 3000 applications for no-fault divorce within the first week of introducing the law. This is a 50% rise from the previous weekly average.

Despite the surge following the introduction of no-fault divorce, research from surrounding countries suggests that these rates will stabilise over time. Divorce rates peaked at 13,000 after Scotland introduced similar legislation in 2006, although they decreased after a while and continue to do so.

Decreasing emotional challenges

Hannah Gumbrill-Ward, Solicitor at Winckworth Sherwood, has commented on the changing emotional processes of divorce:

“Official statistics surrounding the ongoing effects on divorce rates are not available at present. However, there’s no doubt that no-fault divorce has decreased certain emotional challenges families face. Solicitors are seeing the positive impacts of this process, reducing the amount of conflict and stress couples experience at the outset of their separation. 

Research shows that children experience a 16 per cent rise in emotional problems while their parents or guardians go through a divorce, no doubt due to the ongoing stress of the process. No-fault divorce has the potential to lessen the burden on each and every family member, as well as the spouses filing for legal separation.”

Although no-fault divorce is still in its early stages, professionals within the industry are already seeing the positive impacts the legislation has on family members. Whether it is a decrease in acrimony though the removal of blame or the simplification of the procedure and increased use of technology , no-fault divorce is helping people continue their familial relationships while dissolving their romantic ones. We can only hope this continues in the years to come.

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