Bognor Family Law Solicitors

On the 6th April 2022 the divorce process in England and Wales changed with the concept of “no fault” divorce under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

England and Wales have been very late in introducing this process.  The previous law dating back to 1973 required blame to be placed upon one spouse for the reason why the marriage had broken down irretrievably unless the parties had lived apart for lengthy periods of time.

In order for a couple to divorce or have their civil partnership dissolved, one party must still believe that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and there is no hope for reconciliation.  There is however no longer any need to give a reason for coming to that conclusion.

A spouse responding to a divorce issued by the other can no longer dispute that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and it is only in rare and exceptional circumstances that is it possible for the other spouse to stop the marriage from being brought to an end.

The change is thought to allow a more good-natured and simple divorce process, reducing the impact of conflict; particularly on any children.

The Process With Wannops LLP

It is still however sensible to seek advice about the process and we at Wannops are here to guide you through the procedure and deal with the application on your behalf.

Once a member of our Family Department team has met with you and taken your full instructions, we then can draft your application for divorce.  As a good course of action, required by the Law Society Code of Ethics, we will write to the other party informing them of our instructions and your intention to proceed with a divorce.

Your application for divorce would be issued via the Courts and Tribunal Service Centre website.  Unless there are any exceptional circumstances, your divorce process will be completed entirely online and we will keep you informed throughout; in the way that you would prefer; whether this be by email exchange or post.

As the person issuing the divorce, you will be known as the Applicant and your spouse will be known as the Respondent.

Once your application is issued by the court, it will then be sent to your spouse by post and email.  Your spouse must receive the application within 28 days of its issue by the court, and we must have proof that it has been received.  This process is called service.

Your spouse will be given access to the divorce process online so that they can complete an acknowledgement that the application has been received by them.  This is called an Acknowledgement of Service.

Your spouse will have 14 days from receiving the divorce application to complete the Acknowledgement of Service.

Proof of service will hopefully be achieved by your spouse’s completion of the Acknowledgement of Service.  However, if they fail to complete this, alternative methods of service may be necessary.  We will discuss this with you at the time.

20 weeks from the issue of your divorce application, we will then be able to apply for a conditional order for you.  This period of time allows for reflection and allows couples to resolve other issues such as child or financial arrangements.

A conditional order is a document that says that the court does not see any reason why you cannot divorce, end your civil partnership or annul your marriage.  This is similar to what was once called the decree nisi under the previous divorce procedure.

Once a conditional order has been made; the court, if invited by you or your spouse to do so, then has the power to make orders in relation to the finances of the marriage.  This can be in reflection of any agreement reached between you both, or by way of a judgement.  We will discuss this with you and help you through that process.

After six weeks and 1 day have passed from the date of the conditional order, you can then apply for your final order to end your marriage.  This is the equivalent to the decree absolute under the previous divorce procedure.  Once your final order has been received, you will then be free to remarry.

Fees

We offer competitive rates for advising in relation to all aspects of divorce and the consequences of the breakdown of the marriage.  This is something that we can of course discuss if you want to take advantage of our fixed fee appointment service.

In every divorce there is a Court fee of £593 payable if you are the applicant.  However, you may not have to pay the whole of the fee if you are in receipt of a low income.  You can apply for help with court fees via the government website: https://www.gov.uk/get-help-with-court-fees.  Please note that the court fee is a separate charge from Wannops services.

Separation

In some circumstances parties will agree that the marriage or civil partnership has come to an end, but they will not be quite ready to take the formal step of divorce or dissolution. However, there may be financial matters which require immediate attention, and possibly issues regarding children that cannot be postponed.

One way in which these arrangements can be formalised in advance of any court proceedings is by means of a separation agreement.  This, is a written document setting out the practical arrangements for the parties to manage their affairs until they are divorced. It is advisable that both parties take separate legal advice to ensure they are happy with all of the terms reached.

A separation agreement is signed as a deed by both parties in front of witnesses which makes it a binding document. However, it is not formally approved or sealed by the Court and its enforceability could be questioned in front of the Court. To ensure that a separation agreement is as binding as possible both parties would need to give full and frank disclosure of their financial situation to the other party.

If your marriage or civil partnership has broken down and you wish to discuss the possibility of a divorce or dissolution or you wish for some advice about your options on separation, please speak to our experienced team today on 01243 778844 (Chichester), 01903 228200 (Worthing) or 01243 864001 (Bognor Regis).

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