Last Updated on 15.2.23 by Nicola Fraser
Just when you think that legislation is catching up with the 21st century, we get news that a 5-month delay has been built into the new ‘no-fault’ divorce process. This new divorce process is due to go live on the 6th of April 2022, and there was hope that it would provide a new way for intelligent human beings to get divorced without character assassination and unnecessary delays. The newly introduced 5-month wait has dashed those hopes regarding delay.
The new ‘no-fault’ divorce process introduces a fresh 20 week waiting period after the issue of divorce and before an application can be made for a Decree Nisi (now a ‘conditional order’). Coupled with the existing 6-week minimum waiting time between a conditional order and decree absolute (now ‘final order’), it’s going to take 10 months rather than the current 5 to complete a divorce.
More worryingly, this new delay in the divorce process is going to cause major problems in securing timely financial settlement orders. This is because the court currently has no jurisdiction to consider settlements until the pronouncement of a Decree Nisi/conditional order. In short, the mandatory 5-month wait means we’re likely to see serious delays in:
- Dealings with mortgages and property transfers
- The physical separation of living arrangements, which is of particular concern where domestic abuse may be at play
- Achieving financial certainty and enabling clients to move on.
This new delay is ostensibly to allow more opportunity for spouses to consider whether their marriage has irretrievably broken down. However, being that no one applies for a divorce without having reached that conclusion already, the cynic in me wonders how much this has to do with a bizarre enhancement of a ‘nanny state’ and how much it has to do with the workload and backlog of a judicial system on its knees.
In reality, is this simply buying time for a digital system that’s unprepared?
Partner & Head of Family, Family Law