The first working Monday of the New Year has been dubbed Divorce Day. This is when there is an increased number of enquiries, online searches and applications relating to divorces. Some say that after the tensions endured during the Christmas period, some relationships may reach breaking point, causing an increase in persons seeking legal advice on separation.
Research carried out by a London based firm of solicitors discovered that searches for ‘I want a divorce’ rose by 230% from December 2019 to the initial week of January 2020.
In previous years the ONS found that divorces were highest amongst men aged 45-49 and women aged 40-44. Some relationship experts have afforded this analysis to empty nests – with children of the family having left home, couples have an increase in surplus cash and that they have evolved into new people and are no longer sure that they wish to spend the rest of their lives together or that their goals align.
Other contributing factors noted of late were the lockdown periods endured during the Covid-19 public health crisis. There were 113,505 divorces granted under the English and Welsh jurisdiction in 2021, which was a 9.6% increase from 2020 according to the ONS.
The statistics for 2022 are not yet complete, but there could be some thought given to a further potential increase following the change in divorce law on 6 April 2022, which introduced No Fault Divorce. Parties now seeking a divorce no longer have to convince the court that their relationship has irretrievable broken down due to the actions of their spouse. Parties can either solely or joint apply online on the basis of irretrievable breakdown, without further establishing one of five facts as the reason for the breakdown. The process is somewhat easier, much to the appreciation of people going through a divorce and practitioners alike due to the decreased tension afforded by the new procedure. Parties may look to pursue this option with less hesitation.
Parties now complete an online form either as a sole applicant or as joint applicants. The Acknowledgement is sent to the other party who is known as either the respondent or the second applicant. After the application is issued the court allows a period of 20 weeks before a Conditional Order can be applied for. The conditional order was historically known as the Decree Nisi. Once the Conditional Order is granted the court has jurisdiction to deal with a financial remedy application which will determine how the parties’ assets are divided. After six weeks and one day an application for a Final Order (historically the Decree Absolute) can be applied for and once granted the marriage is dissolved.
Parties should be aware that it is suggested that remarriage does not occur until finances from the previous marriage are settled. Otherwise, the party who is remarried is limited in what financial claims they can look to pursue against their ex-spouse and the finances of their new spouse can be considered should the ex- spouse make a finance application.
The cost for issuing a divorce application is £593. However, parties should be aware that if they are of a low income they can apply for Help with Fees. If the court is in agreement that your income is low they can waiver this issue fee.
Also, when dealing with finances this does not have to be a process that occurs within court. It is encouraged by lawyers and Resolution that if parties can reach an agreement outside of court a consent order can be drawn up and lodged with the court detailing how the parties seek to split their assets. The parties can obtain assistance with this through mediation or solicitor negotiation. Parties should be aware that regardless of whether they obtain assistance from a mediator, solicitor or the court, consideration is given to the following factors:
To lodge a financial application with the court costs £275, but this can be lowered to £53 if an agreement is reached outside of court and a consent order is lodged.
Parties should be aware that regardless of whether matters are dealt with within or outside of the court, each party has a duty to give full and frank disclosure as to their financial position. It is also important that any agreement reached is submitted for approval to the Court as a Consent Order to ensure all claims are dealt with.
The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Shevonne Weir, Solicitor in the Family team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2023.