Government Announces No-Fault Divorce to be implemented by April 2022

A long-awaited change to the law governing divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships in England and Wales will at last come into force on 6th April 2022, ministers have announced today. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act received royal assent on 25 June 2020 and became law but has yet to be fully implemented by the Government. The Act will introduce a number of reforms to current divorce law, most notably allowing for a ‘no-fault’ divorce. In practice, this will remove the need for a party applying for a divorce to rely on the conduct of the other person under one of a number of grounds in order to show that the marriage has broken down. Once implemented, the reforms will allow for any party seeking a divorce to simply file a statement confirming that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The other party in the marriage will not be able to contest the divorce once this statement is filed.

It is hoped that once these reforms are implemented, the divorce process will become quicker, simpler, and less immediately stressful for separating couples. The changes have long been campaigned for by family practitioners, as it is hoped that by removing the need to show fault on the part of the other party, both individuals can instead choose to focus on the important issues that come with the end of a marriage. In most circumstances, the issues of finances and arrangements for the children of the marriage will be at the forefront of people’s minds. By removing one layer of conflict from the situation, these reforms will hopefully allow for divorcing couples to be better placed to negotiate where appropriate and come to a swifter resolution for the benefit of both themselves and their children.

These reforms are the biggest shake-up of the divorce procedure in decades, and the delay in implementation has been caused part by the need to make sweeping changes to court forms, application processes and guidelines for family lawyers. However, the Government have now committed to an implementation date of April 6th 2021. Before then, couples wishing to divorce will need to continue to apply under the current law and procedure.

If you are looking for any further information or specific advice in respect of a divorce, the specialist family law team at Burd Ward are here to help. We offer advice in respect of all elements of family law ranging from divorce and finances to arrangements for children. For all new enquiries, please contact 0151 639 8273 or email info@burdward.co.uk


What can we learn from the Gates’ divorce announcement?

The announcement this week that Bill and Melinda Gates are to divorce after 27 years of marriage has made headlines globally. With an estimated combined worth of $130.5b, the couple’s separation looks set to be the most expensive in history, and may have lasting implications for the future of Microsoft and the extensive charity work undertaken by the Gates’ foundation. Whilst most of us will never experience anything close to the wealth this couple possesses, there are some general points we can all take away from the announcement.

‘Silver Splitters’

One trend that the Gates’ announcement has highlighted is the increase in couples aged 60 and over choosing to separate, which has been noted in both the UK and the USA. The Office for National Statistics reports that between 2005 and 2015, the number of male divorcees rose by 23 percent, and by 38 percent for women. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the ONS also reports that remarriages for over 65s also rose dramatically between 2007 and 2017. This trend raises the importance of careful pension planning, and is likely to mean that solicitors are faced with more complex cases as a result of lengthier marriages ,where the prospect of a pension sharing order or other direction from the court looms large.

Knowing where you stand

The Gates’ divorce is likely to be extremely complex, owing to the vast sums involved and the length of the couple’s marriage.  If nothing else, the case will highlight the need for any party to a divorce to have a solid understanding of their own finances, their earning capacity now and in the future, and any other non-financial contributions they may have made to the marriage. Having this knowledge is important before entering into any financial negotiation with the ex-spouse, or in court proceedings should negotiations be unsuccessful.  Seeking advice as early as possible from an experienced solicitor is crucial to beginning the process on the right footing.

Burd Ward’s Family Law team offer a sensitive, thoughtful and comprehensive approach to matrimonial issues. They are happy to advise and represent clients in respect of divorce, finances, and any issues relating to children. Contact our team for more details.


Time for “No Fault” Divorces?

In a highly publicised case, the Courts recently ruled that a 68 year old woman must remain married to her husband. Mr and Mrs Owens separated in 2015 and the wife issued proceedings based upon her husband’s unreasonable behaviour. The Court however felt that her reasons were “flimsy” and refused her application. The wife appealed, firstly to the Court of Appeal and then to the Supreme Court. They both held that the Judge was right to refuse the application but stated their unease at the situation. The Court of Appeal called for the introduction of no-fault divorces. As it stands, the wife now must wait until she has been separated from her husband for 5 years in order to petition without his consent.

We often see clients who have been separated less than a year who want to get divorced but they cannot find a suitable fact to rely upon. There may have been no adultery or unreasonable behaviour and the couple have simply drifted apart. In those circumstances they have to wait until they have been separated for two years (if both parties agree to the divorce) or five years if their spouse won’t agree. A recent survey found that 3 out of every 10 couples “bent the truth” about adultery or unreasonable behaviour in order to ensure their petition was accepted by the Court. More than a third said having to apportion blame in the petition increased their anguish at what is already a very difficult time.

At Burd Ward we are committed to helping you navigate a relationship breakdown in a sensitive manner. Whilst there is not yet a “no fault” divorce, our specialists can advise you on the law as it stands and guide you through all aspects of a separation.

If you are considering separating or starting divorce proceedings, it is well worth taking legal advice before you take any steps. We offer a fixed fee of £350 + VAT and disbursements for handling your divorce. There is a Court fee of £550 to pay however depending on your income you may be eligible for some relief from this. We can assist you to fill in a fee remission form which can be sent to the Court who will then assess whether you have to pay all, some or none of the Court fee.

Using a solicitor to handle your divorce gives you peace of mind to ensure that your divorce progresses as smoothly as possible. There are often issues around finances and children upon separation and our experienced family team and are able to advise and represent you through those aspects of a separation.

If you would like more information regarding divorce proceedings please contact Laura Prysor-Jones on 0151 639 8273.


Government still says No to “No fault divorces”

The Government has recently stated it has no plans to introduce a “no fault” divorce, despite lots of public pressure to change the Law. Many clients are surprised to learn that it is not as simple as asking for a divorce and being granted one. There is only one ground for divorce which is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. You are then required to rely upon one of five facts in support, namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent or five years separation. In the case of civil partnerships, adultery isn’t available as a fact to rely upon.

We often see clients who have been separated and who want to get divorced but they cannot find a suitable fact to rely upon. There may have been no adultery or unreasonable behaviour and the couple have simply drifted apart. In those circumstances they have to wait until they have been separated for two years (if both parties agree to the divorce) or five years if their spouse won’t agree. This can be frustrating for clients. So why does the Government not introduce a “no fault” divorce?

The Government has said that they have no current plans to change the laws around divorce but they are looking at ways in which the family justice system can be improved. Resolution, an organisation promoting the resolution of family matters in an amicable way, has conducted research of its members which shows that 9 out of 10 family law solicitors support a no fault divorce. The Burd Ward family team are members of Resolution and we also support a no fault divorce being introduced. It is frustrating that at present there doesn’t appear to be any changes to divorce law on the horizon. Whilst Divorce isn’t something that should be entered into lightly, sometimes when couples have decided that they need to separate and want to do it amicably, it is unfortunate that they have to list their grounds for Divorce on paper. It would help separating couples deal with matters much more amicably if they were able to agree to a Divorce without having to wait 2 years.

If you are considering separating or starting divorce proceedings, it is well worth taking legal advice before you take any steps. At Burd Ward we offer a fixed fee of £350 + VAT and disbursements for handling your divorce. There is a Court fee of £550 to pay however depending on your income you may be eligible for some relief from this. We can assist you to fill in a fee remission form which can be sent to the Court who will then assess whether you have to pay all, some or none of the Court fee.

Using a solicitor to handle your divorce gives you peace of mind to ensure that your divorce progresses as smoothly as possible. There are often issues around finances and children upon separation and our experienced family team and are able to advise and represent you through those aspects of a separation. We are committed to trying to help you resolve your divorce amicably where possible, including the issues relating to your children and your finances. Sometimes, an amicable settlement isn’t able to happen and we will provide you with robust legal advice to guide you along the way and to protect your interests. Your case will be directly handled by one of our Solicitors giving you expert advice and guidance throughout.

If you would like more information regarding divorce proceedings please contact our family team of experienced solicitors John Burd, Victoria Syvret and Laura Prysor-Jones on 0151 639 8273 or email lpj@burdward.co.uk.

If you would like some initial guidance and advice regarding divorce or any other family matter, we offer an initial consultation with our solicitors for £60. Contact the office to make an appointment.