No fault divorce becomes law on 6 April 2022 and a new online divorce process will be launched in order to accommodate these changes.
The online divorce portal will be unavailable from 31 March 2022 both for citizens and for solicitors while the Ministry of Justice prepares for the changes in legislation.
Key deadline dates
- Digital applications must be submitted by 4pm on 31 March 2022.
- Paper applications must be received by the court by 4pm on 31 March 2022
- The new paper and digital services will be available from 6 April 2022.
Applications received between these dates cannot be guaranteed to be issued ahead of 6 April. Applicants are urged to complete applications as early as possible before the cut-off date to ensure it is issued by the court in time.
Urgent applications that need to be considered after the deadlines set out and before 6 April will continue to be accepted (and issued where possible) if received by post or email before 4pm on 5 April 2022. The email address [email protected] should be used to submitting urgent applications by email.
What is the process after 6 April 2022?
The new no fault divorce rules enable a married couple to make a joint application for divorce.
- The parties still have to have been married for at least 12 months.
- The sole ground for divorce is still that the marriage has broken down irretrievably but no other facts or details need to be provided – a statement by the applicant confirming the marriage has broken down irretrievably is the only evidence required.
- The only challenge to a divorce will be lack of jurisdiction, invalidity of the marriage, fraud and procedural non-compliance therefore a respondent cannot contest the applicant’s decision to divorce.
- There is new terminology:
- Petitioner = applicant
- Petition = application
- Decree nisi = conditional order
- Decree absolute = final order
- Defended case = disputed case
- Undefended case = standard case
- A statement of reconciliation is still required.
- The applicant must take steps to serve the application before midnight on the day 28 days after the date the application is issued.
- A minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings (the date of issue of the application) and the conditional order.
- The applicant can serve the respondent with the application by email provided they also serve, by post or personal service, a notice confirming the service by email.
- The court will effect service (usually by email) unless the applicant asks to do so.
- On joint applications, the court will send both parties a notice of proceedings. Both spouses are required to acknowledge receipt but the court does not need to be satisfied that those acknowledgements have been filed before granting a joint conditional order.
- A joint application can be converted into a sole application at the time of applying for a conditional order or a final order.
- A sole application can be converted into a joint application.
- The respondent can apply for the court not to progress the case to final order unless it is satisfied as to the financial provision made.