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Facts for ending a Divorce or Civil Partnership

If you wish to obtain a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, you will need to demonstrate to the court that your relationship has irretrievably broken down.  

In respect of a civil partnership or same sex marriage, a sexual relationship outside of the civil partnership or marriage with a partner of the same sex is not accepted as evidence of irretrievable breakdown of a relationship by way of adultery. This is because the law currently defines adultery as intercourse between two people of the opposite sex who are not married/in a civil partnership. 

Check you can get a divorce

You can get divorced in England or Wales if you meet the following criteria:

  • you’ve been married for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your marriage is legally recognised in the UK (including same-sex marriage)

Changes to the Law: ‘No-Fault’ Divorce or Dissolution

On 6 April 2022, a new law is set to come into effect which will radically change divorce and dissolution rules, making them more fit for the modern age.

Criticisms of the current regulations, as well as the anomaly relating to adultery, include the fact that obtaining a divorce or dissolution currently often requires an element of blame to be apportioned by one party to the other. This is generally considered to be unhelpful to a relationship, with one party needing to put in writing and submitting to court, issues such as their spouse’s behaviour or infidelity.

The new law, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, seeks to make the process of ending the legal aspect of a relationship easier and less contentious.

Sometimes referred to as ‘no-fault’, the new rules do not require either party to establish fault on the part of the other. Instead, there is the option to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown. This statement can be made by one party or by both parties jointly.

Even if one party does not wish to divorce or end a civil partnership, they will not be able to contest it. A statement of irretrievable breakdown will be considered sufficient evidence and on this basis the court will grant a conditional divorce order or dissolution order. This will be granted 20 weeks after the start of the divorce or dissolution proceedings. After a further six weeks, a final divorce order or final dissolution order will be granted. These replace the previous divorce orders of decree nisi and decree absolute, with the aim of making the process easier to understand.

Stages of Divorce/Dissolution

You can apply for a divorce or dissolution of civil partnership on your own (sole applicant) or together with your partner (joint applicant) if you agree to. We can make the application on your behalf either on a sole or joint basis. Generally, the application will be filed on-line via the HMCTS portal. In some cases, a paper application will be needed. You will need to pay the application fee of £593 at this stage.

If you are a sole applicant, the application will be issued by the court then served directly on your spouse/civil partner at the address or email address you have provided. If the documents are sent by email, a paper notification is also sent to your spouse/civil partner at the same time. If you do not have an email address for your spouse/civil partner do not worry, the papers can be sent by post. You must however have a postal address for your spouse/civil partner, even if you want the papers to be sent by email. If you do not have a postal address, a different procedure is needed.

Joint applicants will need to agree who will be applicant 1 and who will be applicant 2. When making applications digitally, applicant 1 will pay the court fee. When making the application by paper, the parties can agree who will pay it.

Where a sole application is made, this cannot be changed to joint applicants. However, joint applicants can switch to being sole applicants at either conditional or final order stages.

The application is served (sent) by the court on the respondent in England or Wales. The application can be served by email – which will generally be the case if the applicant has provided both an email address and postal address for the respondent. A letter is then sent to the respondent to tell them that the application has been made and that a link to view the application has been provided by email.

The application can be served by post if no email address is available for the respondent, or the applicant doesn’t want it served by email. If the applicant doesn’t have a postal address for the respondent, they can apply for alternative service to be by email only. If the applicant does not have an email address or details of where the respondent is living, alternative steps are required.

If the court receives an undeliverable notice for the service, the applicant can request that the application is served to an alternative address. After this, the court will not try to serve the application again and the applicant must make alternative arrangements to serve the application.

Applicants can arrange service within 28 days of issue, but certain rules must be followed. Applications that need to be served outside England and Wales must be arranged by the applicant as the court will not serve applications in these circumstances, again certain rules must be followed.

Where there are joint applicants and application is made digitally, once applicant 1 has provided the relevant information online, applicant 2 will receive an email asking them to review the application and add any further relevant information. This will then be sent back to applicant 1.

Where paper applications are made by joint applicants, applicant 1 will complete their part of the document and then send it to applicant 2 to complete. The application is then agreed by both parties. Where a solicitor acts for both applicant 1 and 2 then the joint application must be on paper.

Whether completing digitally or manually, both applicants will need to sign a statement of truth. If the application is made digitally, respondents can respond digitally.

Where a sole application is made, this cannot be changed to joint applicants. However, joint applicants can switch to being sole applicants at either conditional or final order stages. 

The respondent in a sole application, or both the applicants in a joint application, will receive an acknowledgement of service to complete. That document must be completed and returned within 14 days of receipt.

A respondent to a sole application may only issue their own application seeking the same relief (unless the first application has been dismissed or finally determined) if they have permission of the court.

20 weeks after the application is issued, either the sole applicant, or one or both of the joint applicants can apply for the conditional order, which will be made if the court confirms entitlement. If only one of the joint applicants wishes to apply, for example if the other applicant is not cooperating, they can apply for the conditional order solely, but they must send a copy of the conditional order application to the other party (applicant) and provide 14 days’ notice. If the court agrees to the conditional order, the order is made. At this stage, the other joint applicant becomes the respondent.

Six weeks after the conditional order is made, either the sole or one or both of the joint applicants can give notice that the conditional order should be made final. If only one of the joint applicants wishes to give notice, for example if the other is not cooperating, they must give the other applicant 14 days’ notice that they are going to do so. By doing this, the applicant who has given notice that the order is made final, becomes the sole applicant and the other party becomes the respondent.

If the sole applicant does not apply for the final order six weeks after the conditional order, the respondent can apply after three months. The final order is then made and the marriage or civil partnership is dissolved.

At WPC Lawyers, we understand the sensitive and complex nature of divorce and dissolution matters, and our team is dedicated to providing comprehensive legal support to individuals navigating through these challenging times. Our experienced family law specialists at WPC Lawyer are well-versed in divorce and dissolution procedures, offering empathetic guidance tailored to each client’s unique situation. We assist in initiating divorce or dissolution proceedings, addressing issues related to child custody, financial settlements, and other crucial matters. Our goal is to provide clarity and support throughout the legal process, ensuring that our clients’ rights and interests are protected. Whether through negotiation, mediation, or representation in court, WPC Lawyers is committed to achieving fair and equitable resolutions for our clients in matters of divorce and dissolution. Contact us today at info@wpclawyers.co.uk