“No-fault divorce” …. how does the new system work?

  1. What does the statement made by an applicant to start proceedings say?

The previous five facts which were the grounds for divorce have been removed and an applicant now only has to make a statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

  1. Where and how does the applicant make the statement?

The question is specifically asked in the application that you have to complete when applying for a matrimonial or civil partnership order; there is a simple tick box to complete.

  1. Is it possible to make a sole application for a matrimonial or civil partnership order?

In a sole application the other party is called the respondent. If a sole application is made it cannot become a joint application later, however a joint application can become a sole application. The decision whether there should be a sole or joint application will need to be made at the outset.

  1. What happens if a joint application is made?

The party who completes the application will be known as applicant 1 and the other party as applicant 2. If an application is made online, applicant 1 will complete the application which will then be sent to applicant 2 by email with a request that they review the information provided by applicant 1 and add any additional details. The application will then be sent back to applicant 1 who will review the further information and then submit it to the court.

If a joint postal application is made, applicant 1 can complete their information and then send it to applicant 2 to complete their information.

Whether the application is made online or by post, a Statement of Truth (which is on the form) has to be signed by both parties.

After the application has been issued, both parties will be sent separate Notices of Issue.

  1. Is it possible to make the application online?

Applications can be made online through the digital service or by sending a paper application to the court.

  1. Do I need to be represented by a solicitor?

You do not need a solicitor to represent you and if you decide to issue your own application you are known as a litigant in person. You may however, decide to instruct a solicitor to represent you in connection with financial matters and/or children as these issues can become complicated and competent legal advice is invaluable.

  1. What happens if we make a joint application and one of us instructs a solicitor?

In this situation the application will have to be made online by the solicitor unless both parties instruct the same solicitor in which case, the solicitor has to make a postal application.

  1. If I am served with an application, can I object because I do not agree that the marriage has broken down irretrievably?

It is no longer possible to defend an application for a matrimonial or civil partnership order or to object to an order if you do not accept that the marriage has broken down. There are very limited circumstances in which the application can be opposed which includes for example:

  • If the court does not have jurisdiction as neither party lives or has a connection with England or Wales
  • The marriage was not valid
  • Because there has already been a divorce
  1. How long do I have to wait before I can apply for a matrimonial or civil partnership order?

The rules have not changed and you cannot make an application until you have been married entered into a civil partnership for a year.

  1. If I am a sole applicant can I get help with the court fee?

If your income is low or you have little or no savings, you should look at Help for Fees at https://www.gov.uk/get-help-with-court-fees to see whether you are eligible for a reduction in the court fee which is currently £593.00

  1. Who is responsible for paying the fee if a joint application is made?

Joint applicants can agree between themselves how the fee will be divided or whether one party will pay. However, when the application is made online applicant 1 will have to pay the court fee. If a paper application is made the details of either party can be put down on the page dealing with the court fee payment.

If both applicants have little or no savings they may be able to get help with the court fees (see 11 above).

  1. Is it possible to keep my contact details confidential if I am a sole applicant?

Yes. You should make sure that you tick the box on the form stating that you wish to keep your contact details confidential.

  1. What happens after a sole applicant makes an application online or by post?

The application will be sent by post to the respondent or by email if you are able to provide their ‘usual email address’; business email addresses should be avoided. The respondent’s postal address also has to be provided as they will be sent a notice in the post advising them that an application has been made. If you do not have a postal address then an application will have to be made to the court asking for permission to serve the respondent by email only.

  1. What does the respondent do next?

If the respondent is served by email they will be able to see the application online and can complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form. If the respondent receives the application in the post, they have to complete an Acknowledgement of Service Form and return it to the court by post. The respondent has to file the acknowledgement of service within 14 days from the day the application was served.

  1. What happens if the respondent does not respond to the court when they receive the notice of application?

The applicant may ask the court to serve the petition at an alternative email or postal address but if service fails for a second time, the court will not serve again and the applicant will have to apply to the court for an alternate means of service or for an order for deemed service.

We shall consider the next stage in the application process for a matrimonial or civil partnership order in Part 2 of our question and answer’s about the new divorce law.

Please contact our experienced family team if you require assistance in connection with divorce proceedings and/or financial and children matters; we will be happy to assist.