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A Brief Guide to the New No Fault Divorce Rules and Procedure

Teena Dhanota-Jones, Partner, Portner, sets out the procedure for divorce from 6 April 2022.





















Teena Dhanota-Jones, Partner, Portner

Teena Dhanota-Jones would like to acknowledge the assistance of David Hodson in the preparation of this article.

The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received royal assent on 25 June 2020 and the relevant sections in relation to no fault divorce come into force on 6 April 2022.

The rules are set out in the Family Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2022.

It is important to note that the existing divorce/dissolution procedure can be used until 31 March 2022, thereafter you must issue using the new procedure, but you cannot do this until 6 April 2022.  There is therefore a period from 1st to 5th April (inclusive) where you cannot issue divorce/dissolution proceedings.

The grounds 

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 particularise the facts by citing adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or periods of separation.

Who can issue?

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

The new rules set out new terminology
















The timetable

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 tofile 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.

Costs

Ordinarily costs orders would have been pursued if the petitioner issued on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery.  Strangely, claiming costs under the new procedure does not appear to be addressed.  It certainly would be an unusual case for cost orders to be pursued rather than agreed under the no fault regime. The Nuffield Foundation considered this issue in their report on 27 July 2021.

04.03.2022