A York legal expert has heralded a ‘revolutionary’ change in the law that came in today.
Couples can divorce each other without blame as the ‘no fault divorce’ system is introduced in England today (Wednesday, 6 April).
Lucy Phipps, partner and head of family law at Harrowells solicitors, told YorkMix: “It’s quite revolutionary – something family lawyers have been waiting for, and a lot of people have been waiting for.
“The hope is that couples will be able to start separation and divorce proceedings without having to mudsling and blame the other, and instead keep things on a more amicable footing.”
She said these are perhaps the biggest changes to English divorce laws in the last 50 years.
Previously, unless there had been a lengthy period of separation, you could only petition for divorce by blaming your separation on the other’s unreasonable behaviour or by providing that they have committed adultery.
For the first time it will also be possible for you and your spouse to jointly apply to the court for a divorce without laying blame.
The changes also mean that divorces can no longer be defended.
The only opportunity for your spouse to dispute the divorce would be on a legal technicality which Lucy says will be extremely rare.
It is possible for your divorce to be processed online or via a paper/postal route. But, Lucy says, there are important checks to be aware of along the way:
- Ensure that you have properly served your husband or wife with the court papers. If you haven’t done this then the divorce may not be valid.
- Obtain a court order reflecting the financial settlement. Even if you have agreed this, you should have it formalised by a solicitor otherwise your spouse could come back in the future and make more claims.
- Check your pension rights. You should not finalise your divorce until you have resolve any pension claims you may have. If you haven’t done this and you aren’t legally married to your spouse when they die, you may lose valuable widow benefits.
The timeframe and procedure for getting the divorce won’t really change, and the quickest it can be done is 26 weeks.
That is due to a 20 week “cooling off” period which the Courts & Tribunals service say is to “provide couples with a meaningful period of reflection” – though often in reality, this is the period when couples will negotiate a financial settlement.
By removing the need to accuse the other at the outset, it is hoped that discussions and negotiation around the more important issues of child arrangements and a financial settlement can be started on a better footing.
Instead of arguments about who did what and when, you can instead focus on moving forward and looking to a new start.
Looking for more advice? Harrowells offers a free initial meeting to all new clients, either via phone, video or face to face. You can call on 01904 558600 or make contact via the website.