How the upcoming no fault divorce law will change lawyer workloads

It’s a sad fact that not every marriage is destined to last in fact, the divorce rate in the UK stands at around 42 per cent. Although divorce hasn’t always been something that society accepts, thankfully, things have moved on since then, with legislation being regularly updated. So, what’s one thing that every family law solicitor in the UK is waiting for?

On 2 April 2022, divorce laws in the UK will change once again with the much-anticipated introduction of the no fault divorce law.

This law has been in place in other countries across the globe for many years. While this will be welcomed by many, will it impact the workload for UK lawyers? Let’s delve into the details.

What is the new no fault divorce law?

This law is set to simplify the process of initiating a divorce by removing the need to prove irretrievable breakdown due to one of the following facts”:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery
  • Desertion (minimum of two years)
  • Consensual separation (minimum of two years)
  • Non-consensual separation (minimum of five years)
  • One party contesting the divorce on the grounds of blame

The new law means that they will now be able to approach the entire process in a more amicable manner, without having to apportion blame for the breakdown of the marriage, by allowing one spouse, or the couple jointly, to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

The law will also remove the right of one party to contest the divorce which, for many, will make the process much less stressful. Finally, the new law will maintain the six-week period between the Conditional Order (formerly Decree Nisi) and the Final Order (formerly Decree Absolute) which is designed as a ‘cooling off period’ for the couples to decide if a divorce is really what they want.

What does this mean for lawyers?

The general thinking is that the new laws will simplify current practices for lawyers as they will no longer have to deal with complications such as the contesting of a divorce by one of the parties. 

UK family courts are under more strain than ever before; it’s thought that a more simplified process will lift some of the pressure off the family law industry. Within the industry, as it stands at the moment, the statutory process of divorce is relatively straightforward and should, in theory, be able to reach completion within a matter of weeks. 

However, this is currently only the case in the rare case of a 100 percent amicable divorce. In most divorce cases, there is a disagreement in terms of blame and in resolving the actual terms of the divorce. It’s this that represents increased time and workloads for divorce solicitors.

Of course, for some divorce law professionals, a reduced workload may mean reduced income. However, on the whole, the law society and representatives of UK divorce law welcome the change in legislation, which many feel is long overdue. 

In terms of income, this would hopefully be balanced out by the fact that divorce solicitors would, due to decreased workloads, be able to take on more clients. Therefore, they can maintain financial standards while speeding up what can be an incredibly stressful time for divorcing couples.

New law will make divorce less agonising for couples

The UK has often been considered to be lagging behind other countries who already provide no fault divorces. The problems with the current system were highlighted in the 2018 case of Tini and Hugh Owens

In the much-publicised case, Mrs Owens was refused a divorce by the family court and by the Court of Appeal. This was due to the fact that she was unable to provide reasonable cause within the five categories detailed in this article. 

While Mrs Owens stated that the marriage had broken down irretrievably, Mr Owens denied this and contested the divorce. This meant that Tini Owens had to wait until 2020, at which point she was able to obtain a divorce due to being separated from her husband for a period of two years.

Following the 2018 ruling against Mrs Owens, the Ministry of Justice, in a public statement, said: “The current system of divorce creates unnecessary antagonism in an already difficult situation. We are already looking closely at possible reforms to the system.”

No fault divorce will take the stress off everyone involved

The UKs high divorce rates mean that divorce solicitors are often up against it in terms of workload. The knock-on effect of this is that clients, who are already under considerable stress, find themselves becoming frustrated and angry when things either don’t move quickly enough, or they have to wait for responses from their solicitor. 

The hope is that the new no fault divorce law will help to untangle some of the complexities of the UK divorce system and allow for a more streamlined process. The law will also update what is seen by many as an archaic system whereby grown adults of sound mind are forced to stay in an unhappy marriage unless they fit the criteria which will allow them to divorce.

Although a divorce is not something that should ever be taken lightly, many feel that the current laws are unnecessarily strict and often do more harm than good. What do you think of the upcoming laws?

Photo by Hutomo Abrianto on Unsplash.