- No Fault Divorce
Today we are joined by Lisa Dawson from Ellisons Solicitors, Lisa answers all our questions on no fault divorce, what it means, how you can apply and other important questions.
What is a no fault divorce?
When did a no fault divorce become law?
When can I apply for a no fault divorce?
How much is a no fault divorce?
How long does a no fault divorce take?
What effect will it have?
Does that mean that people won’t be able to rely on domestic abuse in the process of their divorce?
What else you offer?
E: [email protected]
T: +44 (0)1206 719637
F: +44 (0)1206 710295
A: Ellisons Solicitors, Headgate Court, Head Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1NP
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[00:01:35] Hello, and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby Expert podcast, where we bring experts from all over the UK to answer your questions on everything, pregnancy to preschool.
[00:02:01] Today I am joined by Lisa Dawson from Ellison’s solicitors. And, we are talking all about no fault divorce. I hope you enjoy this episode.
[00:02:21] Hello everybody and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today, I have special guests, Lisa Dawson from Ellison solicitors with us, and we’re going to be talking about no fault divorce. So hi, Lisa, are you.
[00:02:36] Lisa: Hello, Carla, I’m fine. How are you?
[00:02:37] Carla: I’m very well, thank you very well. Um, so could you just introduce yourself, Lisa?
[00:02:43] Lisa: Yeah, sure. I’m a partner, solicitor, uh, Ellison solicitors, and I’m head of the family department. Um, I’ve been at Ellison’s 20 years, this September. So, uh, I did my training contract at Ellison’s and then I qualified into family. So, and then I’ve worked my way up, um, as, as I’ve gone along. Um, and we, we cover everything in family law. So anything you can think of, we do divorce separation, civil partnerships, disillusions, cohabitation agreements, nuptial agreements. We act for grandparents, um, where they want to make applications in respect to their grandchildren. If there’s been a separation. With one of their children, obviously their spouse or partner, and we do internal relocations, international relocation. So really anything you can think of in family law that’s we will probably cover it.
[00:03:39] Carla: Wow. That is amazing. Yes. Brilliant. So today we’re going to be talking about no fault divorce, because I know there’s a lot of questions around this. Um, so I’m going to start by asking you what a no fault divorce actually is.
[00:03:54] Lisa: Yeah, so no fault divorce. Um, it’s a new divorce that available for everybody prior to no fault divorce, there were five grounds that you had to rely on. So the marriage had to irretrievably broken down and then you had to rely on one of five grounds to proceed with your divorce. So two of those were what was known as the quickie divorce, which was adultery and unreasonable behaviour. And then the others were time-barred. So two years separation by consent and five years separation without consent. And desertion. So the ones we dealt with mainly were unreasonable behaviour and adultery because there were no time limits on when you could make those applications for divorce. But what that meant was is that one party had to take the blame for the breakdown in the marriage now where you’ve got a couple, um, who want to, um, separate amicably that wasn’t ideal at all, because.
[00:04:56] For example in adultery petition, you would be saying that because of that adultery, that’s why your marriage broke down. And that might not actually be the case because it might have been that you’ve been separated for a year, but you’re still married, but because that person’s entered into a new relationship and technically it’s adultery, um, with the unreasonable behaviour, depending on the severity you had to list, sort of between five and seven reasons, examples of behaviours.
[00:05:22] That meant that the court would accept an unreasonable behaviour petition. So from the get go, there was this level of animosity that was being created before you even started to discuss finances on separation, following, um, you know, the marriage breakdown and the children. So the no fault divorce now means that the marriage is irretrievably broken down, but you don’t have to rely on one of those extra grounds is literally what it says on the tin it’s no fault.
[00:05:52] So it’s a, it’s a really positive step forward.
[00:05:55] Carla: Definitely because I imagine that’s, I mean, you could be splitting up on amicable terms, like you said, and then, you know, and then because you want this it’s like, right, what can I, what can I say is the reason why, and then the other person’s like, well, I didn’t know you thought that of me. And, you know, I can imagine it that’s when it gets quite, quite, uh, yeah. Quite messy.
[00:06:17] Lisa: Some, yeah, some people would say, uh, can I list my own unreasonable behaviour? You know, you couldn’t do that. You had to list the other persons on reasonable behaviour. So it did make things difficult from the start really
[00:06:29] Carla: Yeah it sounds. So when did a no fault divorce become law because that’s only recent, isn’t it?
[00:06:35] Lisa: Yeah. 6th of April.
[00:06:37] Carla: Wow.
[00:06:37] Lisa: Yeah, it’s very, very new. Um, there’s been a lot of press attention saying, um, you know, the divorce applications as they’re now called and the highest they’ve been for a long time this month, but that’s because. We’ve had a lot of people waiting. They didn’t want to file a petition on unreasonable behaviour. And once we have the date of the 6th of April, they were waiting for that to come in so that they could rely on no fault to reduce the animosity. Whilst we have fall quite a lot of petitions this month, that the not because suddenly everyone wants to get a divorce it’s because they didn’t want to rely on the previous folk grounds that were available.
[00:07:20] Carla: Yeah. That makes, and that makes a lot of sense. So, so when someone apply for a no fault divorce, then at what stage?
[00:07:29] Lisa: So, and you’re going to be able to apply, in terms of your separation whenever you like really, but you can’t progress a divorce application until you’ve been married for one year and one day.
[00:07:42] Once you’ve been, because we do actually see people that have been married for less than a year, but you can’t follow the divorce application until you’ve got past that point. You should still go and get legal advice because you can enter into a separation agreement. You can still agree arrangements for your children, and you can agree.
[00:07:58] Who’s going to be the applicant on the divorce application for no fault. There’s lots of reasons to still go and get legal advice, but that the time limit is a year in one day that hasn’t changed.
[00:08:10] Carla: Right. Okay. Okay. And, um, in terms of how long it takes, how long is that? Does it, does it, does it take a long time from application, right the way through to, to the end?
[00:08:22] Lisa: So what it used to be was that you filed your petition with the court, they would then issue your petition and serve it on the response and by post. The respondent then had seven days to reply if they wanted to defend and 14 days, if they weren’t planning to defend, but just to acknowledge service.
[00:08:41] And then as soon as you got your acknowledgement of service, you can, you could then apply for decree nicely. Now, technically you would just then at the court’s mercy as to how long their waiting lists were. And in all honesty, prior to the online divorce service, which we now have access to, it was taking.
[00:09:00] Probably between six to eight months, sometimes longer for the courts to actually deal with an application for decree…. So pre COVID really, it was very bad. Um, but what COVID did was that it forced through the online service quicker. So once that came into play. We then had that available to us to make those applications.
[00:09:24] So actually they would then take in what we would normally say would between four and six months for a petition from beginning to end. But what’s happened now with the no fault because there had to be a compromise in removing the fault element. And the compromise was that they was what is called a cooling off period.
[00:09:43] So what happens now is that you follow your application, your divorce application with the court. They will then send it to the respondents and you have 28 days to serve the divorce application on the respondent. So that’s a slight change. And then the respondent to the application has up to 14 days to reply.
[00:10:05] And then once you’ve got that acknowledgement, that service, then you could apply for what’s called now the conditional order, but you have to wait 20 weeks from the issue of the petition. To be able to do that. So there is that enforced time period is that, as I say, it’s called the cooling off periods.
[00:10:24] So it’s giving couples the opportunity to consider whether they do really want to get divorced. Um, and then the process goes on the same in terms of that you had, once a conditional order is pronounced. You have to wait six weeks and one day to apply for decree absolute. So it, it will. Certainly take longer, but what couples can do in that 20 week periods is use that to discuss their finances, to try and come to an agreement by either going to mediation or using solicitors, either alongside that process or solicitors having discussions or potentially court proceedings as a last resort.
[00:11:07] And in relation to the children. Having those discussions in mediation or between solicitors. So you can have all of those things going along in the background with a view to, with the finances you can file with the court. What’s called a consent order at the point of conditional order being pronounced.
[00:11:29] The only problem, really in respect of that time to. Is that normally we would always say to people, don’t implement your financial agreement until you have a consent or to seal by the court now, because we can’t follow that until condition at all. And then you’re going to have to wait for that to be considered and sealed by the court that is going to cause a delay.
[00:11:55] So if what sometimes happens, people come to us or, you know, a wife or a husband will come from. And say, look, we’re, we’re really amicable. We’re going to do the no fault divorce and we’ve sorted out the finances and we just want to get on with it. They’re going to have a problem in that they might need to look at alternatives like a separation agreement in the interim periods.
[00:12:18] They’ll need to consider whether they should implement it because sometimes an agreement will be reached that might not necessarily be approved by the court. So there is that issue. In terms of the time that it will take because the divorce application won’t receive a final order. I suspect you will be advised not to seek a final order until the finances have been resolved so that that’s an added complication that you need to consider along with your solicitor about how to move things forward.
[00:12:52] Carla: I, I totally get that. I liked what you said about all the things going on in the background. So you do feel like you are progressing with, you know, everything while that’s happening, because there is a lot to sort, especially when you’ve got children. Um, so there’s all the child arrangements. And then, like you said, the finances, if a house is to get sold, et cetera. So there’s a lot to consider isn’t there?
[00:13:14] Lisa: Yeah. And it gives you that 20 weeks. It sounds like a really long time. And actually, and if you add on how long it actually takes for the court to list it and then pronounce it, you’re probably looking at six months in total. And that sounds like a really long time, but actually it gives both parties time to reflect, to come to terms with, you know, the breakdown in the marriage to see whether arrangements have agreed work, to put the house on the market. And then if it sells, you can. Look again at the financial agreement that has been reached. So it’s not, it’s not necessarily bad news. It’s just something. Perhaps we haven’t needed to consider before.
[00:13:52] Carla: Yeah. Yeah. And there’s like you said, there’s a lot, lot to consider because I suppose with your finances as well, you could end up agreeing something and the house actually goes for a lot less than, or more than what you thought. Or, and then again, you have to look at those again. So there’s a lot of things that can happen along the way, really. Um, and then also. Perhaps someone met someone along the line as well. You just don’t know. So, yeah.
[00:14:16] Lisa: So there is, I think, you know, that six months goes, it does go very quickly. And I think, you know, divorce, I often say is a bit like a death. You have to come to terms with it and you go through all the emotions and that six months we’ll give you. Time to, to heal to an extent and reflect and take advice and consider all the finances and get financial disclosure from your spouse so that you can. Properly consider what agreement should be put in place.
[00:14:48] Carla: Um, yeah, so, so Lisa, just, um, another question that sprung to mind actually is, you know, if someone applies for the no fault divorce and then the other person doesn’t want that, what, what would be the process then? Sorry to over-complicate it just, just in case someone might think they want that and then change the mind.
[00:15:10] Lisa: So there is in, in terms of the new procedure, there is a new way of going ahead with it, which is a joint application. So both parties can apply for a divorce application. So that’s, that’s completely new. What is also completely new is that you cannot defend a divorce petition. So if the respondent doesn’t want to get divorced. That’s not a reason to delay the petition. So it might have been historically that someone would defend an unreasonable behavior petition. We, we used to work in a way that would try and limit the circumstances that would happen, but now they can, there are very limited circumstances where they can. And they are quite legal technical issues in terms of jurisdiction and whether the marriage was even violated.
[00:16:03] So they’re very, very narrow and technically complicated, but you cannot now just simply defend a divorce. So again, that removes an element where you’ve got, for example, a controlling partner who. Simply doesn’t want to let the marriage go. They will not be able to complicate that they will be able to complicate it in terms of you might need to seek additional.
[00:16:28] In relation to service of the petition, but once you are the application, but once you get to that point, then you will be able to progress your divorce and they won’t be able to stop it, which is a good thing.
[00:16:39] Carla: Yeah, it is. It really is because, I mean, I was going to actually ask him if that if a non fault divorce means that people won’t be able to rely on domestic abuse in the process of the divorce. How does that work?
[00:16:53] Lisa: Yeah. So what used to happen with the unreasonable behaviour? We used to try and do it on the basis that they were as mild validations as possible, um, in order to minimise the acrimony between the parties, but often people will feel like they need to vent those allegations. And often it will be the case that they want to raise the allegations of abuse because they are relevant, uh, within children up proceedings, for example, where there has been abuse that would potentially have an impact on what the court would order in relation to the time that the absent parent spends with the child.
[00:17:31] So. Those domestic abuse allegations can be raised if relevant in financial proceedings, which are very limited and they’re probably a whole other podcast, but, um, we, and in children act proceedings where they would be potentially raised and considered and, and just because they haven’t, or there isn’t the ability now to raise them in a new.
[00:17:54] Um, application that doesn’t mean that they can’t be raised later, which is really important for people to understand actually that whilst the no fault divorce is a positive from that perspective. It releases an element of control, as I’ve said before with the other party. But it doesn’t mean that because you’re accepting a no fault divorce, which is actually now the only option available that you cannot raise concerns of domestic abuse within other proceedings.
[00:18:23] Carla: That’s really interesting because sometimes, um, you know, some, some parents might only realize afterwards that they were involved in an abusive relationship because some, sometimes there’s a lot of different forms of abuse and there’s, you know, there’s been a lot of TV programs about. Abuse, um, and in different ways because there’s financial, sorry. I know it is totally another subject, but there is financial, controlling behaviour and it doesn’t always mean, um, you know, physical abuse. Um, there’s, there’s, there’s a lot of different, different types of abuse out there. And sometimes all it is, is listening to someone else or talking to someone else and you think, oh my goodness, I was, that was, that was my partner. So, so it was interesting that, that.
[00:19:08] Lisa: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s only often when there is a breakdown of the marriage and one or relationship even where one party then finally speaks to someone or speaks to a solicitor. All speaks to a women’s aid or other domestic abuse organisations, um, which deal with, um, violence against men as well. Um, where they realize that, oh, oh actually, yes, that, that is what happened to me and that they do, you know, they do realize cause when you’re in a domestic abusive relationship, your level of tolerance, um, gets higher and higher because the abuse increases. So you don’t necessarily see it until you’re out of it. So it’s still very important to get advice, even if you’re going for a no fault divorce.
[00:19:55] So a lot of people will now, um, as I did before, to be honest, with the online service, they will do the petition or application themselves. Um, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t, you know, knowledge is power, I think, with these situations and you should always at least get provisional preliminary advice where you are contemplating filing a no-fault petition or application. Sorry that the applications just come in, all the wording has changed to make it more friendly, so its only been in 13 days.
[00:20:27] Carla: Oh yes after 20 years in the field. It’s a lot to learn, a big change.
[00:20:35] Lisa: It is. But it’s, you know, there are, there are some negatives to it to a degree, but I think imbalance is a positive change and it will, um, it will certainly have a positive impact on couples. Amicably divorcing because it does happen. And it happens all the time. And that will certainly be of benefit to those families because they’re now blended families.
[00:21:01] They’re going to be in each other’s lives forever. They will have children potentially of other people, and you’ve got step parents and, you know, it’s really important to try and maintain the amicable relationship and the fault based divorce didn’t help that. Whereas now, couples. Actually, I don’t have to raise that with them. I don’t have to rely on that so I can proceed with the divorce and then save your energy for discussions over the finances in children.
[00:21:30] Carla: Yeah. That’s huge. A huge, huge change. But yeah, I totally see what you’re saying. I think it’s a positive, positive move forward. So, um, Lisa, is there anything else that you think is important to add here?
[00:21:43] Lisa: I think really, I would just say to people that. Um, as I’ve just said, the risk of repeating myself is that it is important to still get advice because you can proceed with the no fault divorce. And we would always discuss with people doing it themselves. You know, you’re not obligated to instruct solicitors to do it.
[00:22:01] But what I would say is that part of that that’s important. Is getting advice about the financial situation because. Even when you get a final order for a divorce, if you haven’t got consent order in place that does not prevent claims being raised later. So if you divorce and you’ve got your final order. And then you come into a large inheritance. Your ex spouse can then make a financial application to the court. Now it might not be that they would get any share of it, but there is a litigation risk there that they could raise. Whereas if you got your agreement put into a consent order that contains a clean break, then that would prevent that from happening in the future.
[00:22:49] So it’s important to. At least get that provision at advice to understand the impact of decisions and agreements that you’re coming to. And in relation to your children, because issues will, will always come up and often people will search on Google and it might be if you’re looking at a solicitor’s website, that has got good information on it, on it, but there are some websites that do not have good information on a bit like, you know, Dr. Google doctor will say to you, don’t Google your symptoms. It’s the same with, with your legal situation, you should go and see a qualified sister, preferably one who’s a member of resolution.
[00:23:30] Most family solicitors are members of resolution, which is a national agency, which is dedicated to proceeding with the breakdown of relationships in a non-confrontational amicable way. So you can go on to resolution and find a solicitor who is a member to help ensure that you proceed with your separation in that way.
[00:23:52] Or also get a referral from a friend or friends of a friend. If it’s somebody who’s been to see someone. And do your research really into who you’re going to see, but it’s just really important to get advice for the no fault. Yes it makes divorce easier on the face of it, but that doesn’t take away the complexities of the finances and the children aspects, which as I say, it’s just really important to get that proper advice so that you’re fully informed when making those decisions.
[00:24:22] Carla: Absolutely. I was nodding away then when you said Dr. Google, cause I had a headache the other day, I Googled it. Now I should be dead right now. So I totally agree with you. I mean, for, for, I think in terms of, you know, divorcing you on everything to be absolutely right. And anything can turn at any point, you know, six months it could take up to six months is a long time for someone to meet someone else, you to meet someone else and want to get a bit angry or, you know, Can change. And I do think it’s really important to, to work with, with your local solicitor, where you can ring them up and say, right, this has happened. And you’ve got the right advice there because it’s easy to fill in an application, but you don’t really know, you know, you want to know the ins and outs really.
[00:25:07] Lisa: Yeah. And also people will, um, perhaps be wary of going to a family sister because they’ll advise you to, you know, go for the jugular. And it’s, it’s just not like that, right. It certainly shouldn’t be, um, so if you go to resolution and find a solicitor on there, or go by recommendation of someone you should, your solicitor should be discussing with you options of mediation. For example, arbitration they’re all family focused resolution options available to people to come to an agreement and not go through the courts. And so that’s something that your solicitor should be discussing with you.
[00:25:42] Carla: Yeah. That’s brilliant. I’m glad you mentioned about resolution because I liked the sound of that and keeping it amicable really. I think, you know, as much as possible. Um, it is great. So, so, um, Lisa, can you just tell everyone where they can find you if they want more information about this? No fault divorce and, and if they don’t kind of work with Ellison solicitors.
[00:26:04] Lisa: Course. So we have branches throughout East Anglea. And, but we also, obviously, since COVID carry out appointments virtually, so even if you’re not local to us, we could do a telephone or video appointment as well.
[00:26:17] But Ellison’s, um, we’ve been established for over 250 years now. So we’ve grown. So when I started, we had probably about 70 staff and now we’re thinking. Coming up to 250, maybe over 250. So we’ve grown substantially over the years. So we have lots of different departments. So we, so when we work with a client in particular, we will identify if they need to make a new will, for example, or we’ll be able to refer them to our residential department, if they need help with selling their house. And if they have commercial properties, We have a commercial property department. We have an employment department in solvency dispute resolution. So we’re able to give a client that holistic approach by working internally in our firm and hand them over to the right person and recognise when they need different aspects of the law to assess.
[00:27:12] Carla: That’s brilliant because it’s like, when you’re selling a house, isn’t it. And you’re trying to, you know, you ring in all these different people, but you know, to have it all under one roof is brilliant. Everyone knows what’s going on. So that that’s really good. Um, so Lisa, could you tell us where, um, what numbers they need to contact on how they can get hold of you?
[00:27:32] Lisa: Of course. Yeah. So you can either go to the Ellison Solicitors website and link in through the contact page, or you could call the main number on 01206 764477. And you can either ask for me Lisa Dawson, or you could speak to any one of the team. That’d be more than willing to help you.
[00:27:50] And the other option is to email me. So it’s Lisa L I S a dot Dawson, D a w S O N Ellison’s solicitors. So it’s two S’s in the middle dot com.
[00:28:01] Carla: That’s brilliant. Thank you very much, Lisa. That’s that’s been so useful. I really, really appreciate you coming on today.
[00:28:09] Lisa: That’s no problem. It’s lovely to talk to you.
[00:28:11] Carla: Thank you.
[00:28:13] Thank you for listening to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. If you would like to find help and support from experts in your local area, head over to www.mybump2baby.com and you will also be able to find local pregnancy to preschool groups, classes, businesses, and services in your local area.