New No Fault Divorce Rules

New No Fault Divorce Rules

Just under two years ago, on the 25th June 2020, The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received royal assent. These are important changes to the divorce laws, with the relevant sections in relation to ‘no fault divorce rules’ coming into effect on the 6th April 2022. Here are some key points for you:

The grounds for divorce

The divorce/dissolution application needs only to detail that there has been an irretrievable breakdown in the marriage. There is no longer a need to outline the facts by citing adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or periods of separation etc.. Hence these ‘no fault’ changes.

Who can issue an application?

A joint application or a sole application can be submitted to the court. The subsequent orders can be applied for either individually or jointly.

Some terminology has changed

Under these new rules, terminology used previously has changed. Before 6th April the party instigating the proceedings was known as the Petitioner – this has now changed to ‘Applicant’. Consequently the ‘Divorce Petition’ will now be called ‘Application’.

The previous term know as ‘Decree Nisi’ will now be a ‘Conditional Order’, whilst a ‘Decree Absolute’ changes to ‘Divorce Order’. Another change is the phrase ‘defended proceedings’ which now becomes ‘Disputed Proceedings’. A new timetable has also come into force.

Day 1: File divorce/dissolution application online.

28 days: From the date of issue of the application, the court will serve the respondent or both parties (if this is a joint application) via email. If the applicant wants to deal with service, it is anticipated that service should be undertaken within 28 days from the date of issue of the application, albeit the rules do not specify the time for service. The desired requirement submitted by family lawyers for the applicant to give a period of notice to the respondent was not included in the legislation.

14 days: From the date of service of the application time to file acknowledgement of service, or

35 days: From date of service time to file answer.

20 weeks: From the date of issue of the application, provided the acknowledgement of service was served within 18 weeks from the date of issue the applicant can apply for the conditional order. If the acknowledgement of service was served later than 18 weeks from the date of issue of the application, the time to apply is no earlier than 14 days after the acknowledgement of service should have been filed.

6 weeks: After the date of the conditional order both parties or one party can apply for the divorce order. If the application is made by one party that party must give 14 days’ notice of their intention to apply.

What about costs?

Previously costs orders would have been pursued by the ‘petitioner’ if proceedings had been issued on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery. It is not clear, under the new rules, as to the arrangements for costs. Given that these are ‘no fault’ rules it would strange for cost orders to be pursued rather than agreed under this new ‘no fault’ regime.

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For your reference these new rules are set out in the Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2022 HERE.