Divorce proceedings – where are we now?

There have been two big changes in the divorce system recently. One is the introduction of online divorce (on the gov.uk website) and the other is no fault divorce.

The roll out of online divorce has been speeded up by the pandemic. Working remotely forced people to adopt the new system. Generally it works very well and is a much needed change. There are teething problems (the system was clunky to start with, and sometimes the court still had to post copies of papers because the system couldn’t cope with respondents instructing solicitors).

Please don’t get muddled between the online divorce system – which is free, on the gov.uk website here and online firms offering to do the divorce for a fee. Just use the free one! Alternatively if you can’t face dealing with the paperwork then we can deal with it for you. Often these days our clients do the online divorce themselves, and use us for advice about finances or children.

Also please remember that divorce simply ends the marriage. It doesn’t deal with your finances. You may still have financial claims against each other after you are divorced. Separately you need a financial court order to deal with those claims, and we can help with that.

The second big change is the introduction of no fault divorce. This was originally due to start this Autumn, but will now start in April 2022. Some people are waiting for the new system. At the moment, the main grounds for divorce are adultery or unreasonable behaviour; there are 3 other grounds but they all require you to be separated for at least 2 years before you start the process. This means that on the back of the breakdown of your relationship, you potentially have to agree whose unreasonable behaviour caused the divorce, and list details of that behaviour. This can cause a huge amount of ill feeling, and achieves nothing.

Under the new system, one person just files notice of their intention to divorce. You don’t have to give a reason, or allocate blame. There is a cooling off period but essentially after 26 weeks there will be a divorce. This means the process takes a while, but it is simple and there is little chance for conflict.