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Family Law

New Fault Divorce – 1 year on

No fault divorce

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Between 1973 and April 2022, you could only obtain a divorce in this country if you could allege fault.  You could prevent a divorce by denying the fault and defending the case all the way through the Courts.  Indeed, a couple of decades ago, I represented a person who was trying very hard to obtain divorce and ended up having to go to Court and give evidence on the alleged behaviour.  How humiliating, stressful, and how expensive.

Finally, in April 2022, the government introduced no fault divorce.  It is straightforward – you make an online application, upload your marriage certificate, and you are away.  Inevitably, there is a fee to pay of £593.00 but you can stop yourself being married to a person you do not wish to be married to.

For too long, divorce has been used by partners as a means of control, caused a great deal of upset, and remaining married means you are subject to a number of matters in relation to your legal status.  A married person is a widow under a pension scheme etc.

The Government figures have now been released for divorce since the online no-fault system was introduced in April 2022 which show that 119,709 have gone through the process.  This is an 11% rise on 2021 when the numbers hit a 20 year all time low.

Headlines suggest this is a result of high financial straint, but there has to be an accessibility issue here.  We certainly advised clients not to base fault-based proceedings in the run up to the new law so many people would have held off.  There will also be all of those people who have been seeking divorces for years and have not even tried because of the awful fault-based system.

The online system as stated is incredibly straightforward and indeed inevitably, we received a call from a distraught person seeking to prevent an online divorce proceeding.  Evidently the couple had been in a bad patch and in a fit of panic late one night, this individual uploaded the marriage certificate, paid the fee and started the process.  It will take a straightforward consent application to the Court to do it.

When we talk about divorce, people assume it means sorting out finances and sorting out children.  It should be noted that the online divorce system only changes your legal status from that of a married person to a single person.  It does not sort out all the other issues in relation to children and finances and indeed the government figures show that of the 119,709 divorces that have gone through the system, only 27% have addressed the financial issues arising out of divorce.

It is essential before you become a single person i.e., you receive your Final Order through the online system, that you take legal advice in respect of the implications of the change in your legal status.  The major and most important is your loss of divorce rights which can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.  I have to say that on this occasion, it is essential you obtain legal advice so we can sort out the financial split and make sure that everything is fairly shared out including those hidden savings i.e., pensions, often the most valuable asset that the parties own.

For more information, please contact Jenny Goldstein at Samuel Phillips Law on 0191 255 0216 or email jennygoldstein@samuelphillips.co.uk.

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