North East Connected


A leading North East family law firm has shared some key information about an upcoming historic change in divorce law.

Major Family Law, based in Ponteland near Newcastle, has addressed some of the burning questions around the new ‘no fault’ divorce ahead of its launch across England and Wales on April 6.

Joanne Major, founder of Major Family Law, explained: “This is the major change to divorce legislation in 50 years and one that has been long awaited by family lawyers across England and Wales.

“It is important that now, we as experts explain what these changes mean and how people can benefit from the new legislation.”

How will the law change?

From April 6, it will no longer be necessary to cite a reason when applying for divorce.

The five available grounds defined by the previous legislation were unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, two years’ separation with the consent of both parties, and five years’ separation without consent.

But now, under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, applicants will only need to declare that their marriage has irretrievably broken down – and they can even do so jointly with their spouse if they wish.

Why has the new law been introduced?

The five reasons required by the previous legislation had been controversial for decades, because at least three of the reasons required attributing fault – effectively blaming your spouse for the breakdown of the marriage.

Campaigners have long argued that this process encouraged unnecessary rancour at an already emotional time. With a reason no longer required, the new legislation is popularly referred to as ‘no fault’ divorce.

Joanne explained: We expect divorce to become a much smoother and less emotional process for most. Estranged spouses will now be able to focus on practical matters like money and childcare rather than who was to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, and we expect the numbers of couples going their separate ways to jump as a result.”

How long does the ‘no fault’ divorce take?

Under the previous process, for a blame-free divorce it had to be demonstrated that the parties have lived apart for at least two years – as long as both parties consent to the divorce – or five years if not.

With the new ‘no fault’ divorce, the whole process can take less than a year. Once the divorce petition has been issued, both parties must wait 20 weeks before applying for a Conditional Order (previously a Decree Nisi). This period allows both parties to reflect on the decision as well as make important choices around children and finances.

Once the Conditional Order is granted, a further 6 weeks must elapse before either party can apply for a Final Order (previously a Decree Absolute).

How much does it cost?

The current court fee for filing a divorce stands at £593 across England and Wales. If a solicitor is instructed to undertake the work on behalf of a client, then their costs are in addition to the court fee.

However, working with local specialists can bring this cost down. Joanne explained: “As a specialist firm, dealing exclusively with family law, we can be nimble when it comes to how we react to the market and the changing expectations.

Many law firms still charge excessive amounts, she explained, for assistance with a process that is relatively straightforward and simple for most couples. She continued: “Unlike other players in the market, we aren’t just a department within a much larger firm – instead our brand is built around our one specialist area of expertise. Until recently, we offered a competitive fixed fee for our work preparing and dealing with the process of divorce on behalf of our clients for just £250 plus VAT.

“With the instruction of the new law, we have decided to offer a new low-cost fixed fee for us to assist with that process of just £150 plus VAT together with the payment of the court fee for applications issued in England and Wales and where both parties reside in England. This reduction simply reflects our continued commitment to our clients by offering first rate advice at competitive, affordable prices.”

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