The rapid approach of no-fault divorce in April was emphasised last week when new rules were published by the government setting out the process that the new divorce system will follow.
The rules are a reminder of some of the interesting ways in which the new system will differ from the present system, so we thought we would take a quick look.
The rules include the following matters relating to the new divorce system:
1. Firstly, they provide a definition of “disputed proceedings”, to reflect the limited grounds on which it will be possible to dispute divorce proceedings. In particular, it will no longer be possible to defend divorce proceedings, on the basis that the marriage has not irretrievably broken down. An answer to a divorce application may still be filed by the party who receives the application, but only disputing the validity of the marriage, or the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the proceedings.
2. Secondly, the rules introduce a new ‘minimum period’ of 20 weeks for divorce, from the date on which the court issues the application before a party can apply for the conditional divorce order (the equivalent of the present decree nisi). The purpose of this period “is to allow sufficient time to ensure certainty around the intention of divorce, and greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible, and divorce is inevitable.”
3. Thirdly, the rules set out the procedure to be followed on joint applications – the new system allows for the first time both parties to jointly make the divorce application.
4. Lastly, the rules reflect the new terminology that will be used under the new system. For example, ‘Petition’ will become ‘Application’, ‘Petitioner’ will become ‘Applicant’, ‘Decree Nisi’ will become ‘Conditional Order’, and ‘Decree Absolute’ will become ‘Final Order’.
These new rules will obviously come into force on the same day as the new divorce law, which is currently fixed for the 6th of April. Hopefully, they will ensure that the new system operates smoothly.
For a discussion upon whether you should wait for the new system before issuing divorce proceedings, see this post.
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