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At LGFL, we don’t often advocate a speedy approach to divorce. However, for couples who are considering separating, now may seem the right time to act, as the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed almost a  year ago.

However, the Act won’t actually be implemented until April 2022, which is a long time to wait.

 

Implementation date confirmed in April 2022

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into force on 6th April 2022, according to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Home Office) Chris Philp. This is a fixed date as a matter of Parliamentary record rather than the indicative timetable previously given by the government.

Considering that the Act was given Royal Assent almost a year ago, this is a significant delay. Many couples who were waiting for a no-fault divorce won’t be able to wait any longer. Whilst as divorce lawyers we find the delay very disappointing, it does at least give clarity, as no-fault divorce campaigner Nigel Shepherd, the former Chair of Resolution said: “We do now have certainty over the introduction of this important reform, and will be able to advise clients accordingly.”

 

A smooth transition

The date wasn’t officially announced but was given in a reply to a written question by MP Jane Stevenson to the Secretary of State for Justice. In his reply, Chris Philp MP stated that the Ministry of Justice needed to “devise some key new procedures” including:

  • Significant changes to Family Procedure Rules
  • Amendments to family court forms
  • Changes to the online digital divorce service
  • Update the information on gov.uk

According to Philp’s reply, the overall aim is for a “smooth transition” from the existing system to a digital system that will:

“Improve the information and signposting for couples when they navigate the legal process of divorce, dissolution or separation … While this delay is unfortunate it is essential that we take the time to get this right.”

Until the Act is implemented, as Resolution lawyers LGFL can draft a petition for you that is not antagonistic and is acceptable to both parties. Call us to arrange your initial reduced fee 1 hour appointment to discuss your situation and our empathetic and pragmatic approach to divorce.

A major achievement

The Act is a major achievement offering couples a ‘no fault’ divorce. Under the new Act, couples can simply state that: “The marriage has broken down irretrievably” rather than allocate blame or wait for years. Currently there are five grounds for divorce, three of which require the allocation of blame.

As Margaret Heathcote, chair of family law group Resolution says, this enables married couples to separate ‘As constructively and amicably as possible, minimising the impact on any children they may have’.

 

Too long to wait?

No-fault divorce is a very welcome change to our outdated divorce laws, but it comes at a cost – it takes longer. The ‘blame game’ system is never pleasant, and the choice to wait and not allocate blame should be weighed up against the new, extended timescales.

So, if you have definitely decided you want to divorce, call us. We can start the divorce process while the timescales stand, helping you both move forward with your lives.

 

All change - and quickly

The new legislation will extend the minimum time from divorce petition to decree nisi (now known as the conditional divorce order) to 20 weeks. It is currently about 12 weeks.

There’s also an additional 6 weeks to add between decree nisi (conditional divorce order) and decree absolute (divorce order).

It’s important to note that the new 20 weeks period starts when you file for divorce NOT, as in some other countries, when you first consider divorce. Also, the clock starts ticking when the application is made, not when the respondent receives it. The government press release on the new Act says that it:

"Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made, allowing greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable."

The Committee of MPs who scrutinised the Bill on Weds 17 June suggested a 'further' extension to the timescales, extending the 20 week period to a considerably longer 46 weeks. Luckily, this amendment was withdrawn and the Bill was passed with just a single amendment the next day. The Bill was then passed, and given Royal Assent on 26 June 2020.

No-fault divorce now starts in April 2022

If you feel that is too long to wait, call us. We offer an initial reduced fee 1-hour consultation, so you have time to really talk through your situation and your options.

If you missed what we’ve been sharing last month, here’s a round up of our blogs and some of the news posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

From our blog:

Divorce in 2020: child arrangements for celebrities

 

How do Hollywood A-listers co-parent after divorce? Managing Director Rita Gupta uncovers some positive ways A-listers make their child arrangements after separating.

 

Pre-nups: who needs one and why

 

Pre-nups for all: why every couple getting married should make a pre-nup, and why they are not just for Hollywood A-listers!

 

 

 

Domestic abuse against men: the 2020 ManKind Conference

male domestic abuse caller

 

The latest research into domestic violence against men as revealed at the ManKind Initiative Conference in November.

 

 

 

How to make Christmas 2020 child arrangements following your separation

 

Are you a recently-separated parent and need to plan that crucial five day festive period under the new COVID Christmas rules? A child arrangements letter can help both of you decide on who gets the kids, when. Our latest article from Director Rita Gupta explains more.

 

 

 

From our social media:

The oligarch's divorce saga rumbles on

Tatiana Akhmedova’s son accused of foul play in £453m divorce.

 

Millions of parents say they’d cancel Christmas if they could

A sad statistic to read, as we move into December.

Our latest article on our website gives some ideas on how separated parents can organise Christmas, rather than perhaps cancel it.

 

So, what is Good Divorce Week?

Resolution’s annual campaign which aims to promote the constructive ways their members can help separating couples. This year the emphasis is on the Resolution "Code of Practice".

 

Splitting up by also splitting the costs

More and more couples are keen to share the cost of separation by instructing one solicitor.

 

From our social media:

Brad Keeps His Judge

And still it rumbles on for Brangelina.

 

Supreme Court launches career journey podcast to encourage top court hopefuls

For those considering applying, you can listen to the other Justices speaking about their career path and why they applied to become a Justice, as well as sharing insights into what the application process felt like and what advice they would give someone considering applying.

 

McFarlane alarmed by weekend demand for skeleton arguments

"It is plain that the system is at present running low in terms of the personal reserves of the human beings who work within it. "

 

Is it possible to divorce 'well' during a lockdown?

"Having the right team behind you is invaluable for a lockdown divorce, when you’ll need more support than ever."

We couldn't have said it better

 

UK’s top court could soon have just one woman judge

Something to think on for retaining diversity.
"The UK Supreme Court could be left with just one woman judge in a few months’ time, risking a reversal of progress on diversity on the bench, campaigners have warned."

 

A shock is in store for international divorcing couples

As per this FT Adviser article: A shock is in store for international divorcing couples. Brexit may pose some difficulties for parties in international divorce.

 

If you missed what we’ve been sharing last month, here’s a round up of our blogs and some of the news posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

From our blog:

Whose pension is it anyway? Your pensions and divorce questions answered

piggy bank and pension words

 

Worried about the impact of divorce or separation on your hard-earned pension? I answer some of the big questions clients ask me, in this Pensions 101 article.

 

Charity September: a month for giving

 

September was charities month at LGFL: see our article for what we're up to and which local and national charities will benefit.

 

 

 

LGFL Wills, marriage and divorce; don’t get caught out

 

A will is a 'living document' - when did you last feed it some new information, or update it? Divorce, remarriage, new grandchildren - they all require a new or updated will to reflect your wishes and help your executors carry them out.

 

 

From our social media:

I discovered my wife plans on divorce – and accuses me of abuse

Lockdown has had a great affect on many relationships. Finding the best way forward for both parties is crucial. A mediator can really help.

 

Perspex and Portakabin: HMCTS announces ‘ambitious’ safety drive

Plastic screens are to be installed in 250 courts and retiring rooms by the end of October, while Portakabin buildings are to be set up for deliberating juries, according to a government announcement.

 

Outdated weddings laws of England and Wales face overhaul

Great to see these changes being considered.

With more choices for locations for weddings will make things easier for couples.

Don't forget the pre-nup!

 

Coronavirus: What do Covid rules mean for half-term holidays?

Divorced or separated, & you want to take your kids abroad for half term, you’ll need permission from everyone with parental responsibilities. For a UK staycation in an area with local restrictions, check the rules on where & with whom you can stay.

 

1 in 4 behaviour divorces caused by alcohol abuse during lockdown

Another outcome of lockdown

 

Meghan Markle was ‘empowered by divorce’ after she made abrupt break-up decision

Can divorce be empowering? A friend at the time of Megan’s divorce in 2013, actress Abby Wathen has been quoted as saying:

“She was empowered. She took her power back. It wasn’t the right relationship for her, so she moved on.”

If you feel it’s time to move on, call us for an initial consultation to discuss your situation in complete confidence.

 

'Divorce boom' forecast as lockdown sees advice queries rise

Cause and effect in action.

 

Jamie Redknapp gives rare insight into co-parenting

Talking on a new podcast, Jamie Redknapp has given a rare insight into co-parenting sons

 

Coercive control: 'I was 16 and thought it was normal'

Really helpful article to understand coercive control.

Even though the article focuses on a young girl this can be relevant to any gender, age or class.

AND FINALLY

LGFL in the media

What do national lifestyle magazine Red, the Law Society, Berkshire Living and Stay Connected have in common? Rita Gupta has featured in all of them within a month! Discover more of our media features in our latest article at our own website.

 

If you missed what we’ve been sharing last month, here’s a round up of our blogs and some of the news posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

From our blog:

Reduced rate of stamp duty and divorce: use it or lose it

model house with stamp duty tag

 

The reduced rate of stamp duty has some unexpected benefits for anyone looking to separate or divorce, and needing to sell the family home.

 

Divorce and Children with Special Needs: Child Arrangement Orders

special needs child and divorce

 

For parents of SEN children, divorce and separation come with an extra layer of challenges. In the first of two articles, our Managing Director Rita Gupta looks at how a pragmatic approach to child arrangements can create a child-focused outcome that prioritises the child’s emotional and financial stability.

 

 

 

What’s changed at LGFL - and what’s not changed! The personal touch a boutique firm offers

 

As a result of returning to our offices in Swallowfield and Reading, we've had a good think about our firm’s structure and the way we do business. We've had a reallocation of roles, to better deliver the high level of personal service our boutique family law firm is known for.

 

 

 

Rise of the Tinder babies: parental responsibility and paternity

heart on dating agency website

 

Dating sites have made finding love simple, but the legal ramifications of a resulting pregnancy and child can be anything but simple. Director Rita Gupta explores the rise of the Tinder babies.

 

 

From our social media:

'Not just about the professionals': Buckland defends extended court hours

We are not expecting anyone to work extremely long, whole days in court. It’s court buildings hours that we want to extend.

 

30 Signs someone has suffered financial abuse

Arguing about money is the most likely reason for a couple to divorce, which just shows how huge of an issue it can be. However, not all arguments are equal, and it may be that one partner is the abuser, and the other is the abused.

This article lists some of the warning signs

 

Depp libel trial reveals problems of proof in domestic violence cases

As this Guardian article states: "If four weeks of courtroom investigations – aided by first-class lawyers examining CCTV recordings, text messages, photos and numerous witnesses – still struggle to establish the precise truth of what happened, then how hard must it be for family courts processing thousands of domestic violence allegations every year?"

 

Women urged to claim 'millions' in underpaid pensions

"The women are being urged to check their state pension as under the old system married women could claim a basic state pension at 60 per cent of the full rate based on their husband's contributions, where this would be bigger than the pension they would get based on their own contributions."

This applies to divorced women too, particularly those who divorced post-retirement, to check that they are benefiting from the contributions of their ex husband.

 

BBC Panorama

Victoria Derbyshire reports on what lockdown has meant for those living with Domestic Violence.
Thirty-five years on, she returns to look at how those living with domestic violence have been impacted by lockdown.

 

Training needs in a post-lockdown landscape

Interesting post from Resolution - First for Family Law about training and professional development, crucial for all of us.

 

TikTok, Netflix’s ‘365 Days’ and the memeification of violent sex by generation Z

Really worrying what younger people are now exposed to and a good article.

 

Government finds £3.1m to support litigants in person

Not-for-profit organisations will be given funding to provide free legal support to those without legal representation in court.

 

Lawyers' exemption from coronavirus quarantine should be scrapped as it 'risks lives', Law Society warns

“Allowing people to break quarantine to attend court and not having effective systems in place to communicate outbreaks in the court puts lives at risk”. Law Society President Simon Davis talks to the Evening Standard about #quarantine exemptions

 

Kent musician composes charity song 'You're Not Alone' to support male domestic abuse victims through charity ManKind

Great to see the top man @LeverClive being featured in the news about his song "You're Not Alone" raising awareness of male victims of domestic abuse and also funds for our helpline.

 

Life’s too short to end a relationship

"Ending a relationship gets particularly complex when there are other people involved, too, like children, or mutual friends"

 

MoJ headquarters begins new role as Nightingale court

The Ministry of Justice’s London headquarters has begun functioning as a Nightingale court hearing cases that are not usually open to the public.

AND FINALLY

LGFL in the media

What do national lifestyle magazine Red, the Law Society, Berkshire Living and Stay Connected have in common? Rita Gupta has featured in all of them within a month! Discover more of our media features in our latest article at our own website.

 

LGFL - in the news

If you missed what we’ve been sharing last month, here’s a round up of our blogs and some of the news posts on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

From our blog:

Our new article on school fees for Stay Connected magazine

 

We’re delighted to have an article in the second edition of Stay Connected, the new digital magazine packed with features and advice for those still in lockdown.

 

Domestic violence: the hidden crime in lockdown

key in lock for domestic violence in lockdown

 

Domestic abuse rates have risen in lockdown, hidden behind closed doors. As the UK restrictions are slowly lifted and more people return to work, now is the time to spot the tell-tale signs of domestic violence, abuse and coercive control in friends, colleagues and children.

 

 

 

Divorce on hold: how a collaborative law approach can help avoid long court delays

mail bags

 

As UK courts gradually reopen with a substantial backlog of cases to deal with, LGFL Director Anne Leiper explains how a collaborative law approach to separation can be less stressful, less costly and less time consuming.

 

 

 

Want a divorce? Why the new Bill will not make it quicker

 

Once the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act comes into effect, couples will finally be able to declare “The marriage has broken down irretrievably” and not need to allocate blame to either party. A no-fault divorce has been much anticipated but it comes with a sting in the tail of an extended timeframe for divorce proceedings.

 

 

 

From our social media:

News focus: Family courts - a bumpy road ahead

Remote it is. In December, McFarlane said family lawyers were ‘running flat out up a down escalator’ due to the growing backlog of cases. Covid-19 has made that backlog worse but public law cases must still be completed within the 26-week statutory deadline.

 

Seven Reasons People Stay in a Marriage That Doesn't Work

It is possible to make a clear decision to divorce. If you feel stuck remind yourself that you always have a choice. If you do choose to leave your relationship be sure that you have made a well-thought-through decision.

 

Couple who spent £600,000 squabbling for two years over their divorce are left with just £5,000 each after legal costs

Settling fairly, with thought and sometimes compromise will mean your assets don't disappear.

 

Supporting Hampshire County Council’s plan for Children and young people living with domestic abuse

If someone in your family is hurting someone else, it’s important to get help.
Call Hampshire Domestic Abuse Service Advice Line 𝟬𝟯𝟯𝟬𝟬 𝟭𝟲𝟱 𝟭𝟭𝟮
or Childline on 𝟬𝟴𝟬𝟬 𝟭𝟭𝟭𝟭.
It’s confidential and they will know how to help. Remember it’s not your fault and you won’t get into trouble for telling someone
Stop Domestic Abuse , Hampshire Constabulary

 

Super-rich divorcing couple are fighting over a £10,000,000 fleet of ships

Divorce settlements wealthy style.

 

McFarlane: normal family court business unlikely before spring 2021

It's going to be a long road back to fully operational.

 

Coronavirus lockdown divorce spike could boost property sales by £9.3bn

Another result of lockdown

 

Social distancing causes delays at regional divorce centre

20 weeks delay!

 

Lawyers' poems deal with trials of delivering lockdown justice

Love this one!

It’s all very well to do Zoom
but it’s better to be in the room.
One misses the ‘tells’
the ticks and the smells
there’s a danger injustice will loom!

 

Remote hearings for family courts 'horribly cruel'

There really is no 'one size fits all' to court hearings. In family cases which involve dispute resolution of complex often emotionally-charged issues court provision delivered by video or phone is never going to be an adequate substitute for face-to-face contact.

 

Divorce rates will climb as lockdown lifts, lawyers say

Divorce rate rising in Belgium due in most part to lockdown.

 

Ant McPartlin is reunited with his beloved dog Hurley during lockdown

Ant sharing custody of his dog!

 

Parents fight in court over whether children should return to school in England

It's difficult for parents to know what is right" so it's leading to parents fighting in court over whether children should return to school in England

 

Bill backed to improve children’s role in family legal system

The Children (Scotland) Bill passed its first stage unanimously in Holyrood. It proposes to give the views of children more weight in family disputes

 

Survivors of domestic abuse told to give evidence in person at Commons

Video links for evidence to be ended this week! Why?

 

Family barrister becomes one of the UK’s first hijab-wearing judges

Diversity in action in court.

 

AND FINALLY

LGFL is 12!

After three months working remotely, we celebrated our 12th anniversary with a social distanced meeting and a delicious afternoon tea delivered to our Wyvols Court office.

What a journey we have had. The company started in a recession (unintentionally we might add!) and year on year, we’ve grown from strength to strength. The secret of our success? We’ve focused on what we are good at, family law, and remained boutique.

Here’s to the next 12 years!

woman waiting for divorce bill

No-fault divorce is getting closer, as the long-awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 2019-20 is finally progressing through parliament. The bill may not be a top priority for government at present, but with the divorce rate predicted to rise as already fragile marriages are likely to feel the strain of lockdown, it may soon become one.

 

One single ground for divorce

At present, there are only five grounds for divorce, three of which require the allocation of blame to one party.

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Living apart for more than two years and with both agreeing to the divorce
  • Living apart for at least five years, even if your spouse does not agree

Irretrievable breakdown = no fault

The new Bill replaces all the existing five seasons with a simple statement that “The marriage has broken down irretrievably.”

As Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP said:

“By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.”

 

Is it worth waiting for no-fault divorce?

In a word, no. We really don’t know what’s going to happen to bills in parliament at present, and progress will inevitably be delayed by the need to work on more pressing legislation. There is even the chance that the Bill may not even be passed at all.

What’s more, there is every reason to get divorce proceedings started now, because of a sting in the tail in the new Bill….

 

No quickie divorce on the table

For those expecting this Bill to include the option for a ‘quickie’ divorce, it doesn’t. In fact, quite the opposite, as the Bill would lengthen the divorce timescale rather than shorten it.

Currently, 40% of divorcing couples are granted a degree nisi within 12 weeks. However, under the new Bill, you must wait for a minimum period of 20 weeks from the initial petition before a judge can grant your degree nisi. That’s a much longer wait than at present, and could really slow down your divorce even if it’s really straightforward.

Need a divorce now? Call us to request a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your situation. (T&Cs apply.)

 

New words, old meanings

As divorce lawyers, we’re constantly seeing legal terminology changing with new legislation. It’s designed to help make the divorce process more understandable, but sometimes we do wonder if it’s worth it! The revisions in this Bill include:

  • “decree nisi” becomes a “conditional divorce order”.
  • “judicial separation” becomes “a judicial separation order”
  • “divorce” become “a divorce order”

 

No more Tini Owens scenarios

Tini Owens wanted to divorce her husband of 40 years. He refused, even though they had lived apart since she had moved out. She appealed to the High Court in 2018, which rejected her appeal on the grounds that her husband’s behaviour had not been unreasonable. This forced her to wait the full five years until she could finally divorce her husband without his consent in 2020.

She wasn’t alone; other spouses had refused to divorce even after five years of separation on the grounds that they would suffer grave hardship. The Bill removes the ability for one spouse to contest the divorce in court. So, no more waiting game.

 

Where is the Bill now?

The bill has currently just had a first reading in the House of Commons, having been debated and amended by the House of Lords. There’s no date set yet for a second reading, but it is making progress with just four stages to go. You can follow the Bill’s progress at the Parliament site.

 

Expert divorce advice from LGFL

As experienced divorce lawyers, we have long argued that a no-fault divorce process would be fairer and more suitable to today’s society. In particular we would support any changes that reduce the emotion distress of divorce on both parents and children, and retains more amicable relations between divorcing parents.

What’s more, as Resolution family lawyers, we will not write inflammatory petitions unnecessarily as we follow their code of practice. You will always get to approve all petitions, written with the benefit of our professional advice and decades of experience.

If you’re uncertain what approach is best for you and your family, call us to book a consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.