Rebecca Meehan, solicitor in our family team, reflects on how the changes to divorce legislation, whilst welcome, risk leaving financial matters between separating spouses unresolved if parties are not fully appraised of their options.
It has been widely reported and echoed by many of our clients that the no fault divorce changes are welcome and have taken us a in a positive direction towards reducing unnecessary acrimony at the early stages of settlement.
Under the new divorce legislation, spouses are able to make an application for divorce, either jointly or independently, without the need to attribute blame to either side, regardless of the reasoning as to why the separation came about. The divorce application is made via an online portal system which is understood to be relatively straight forward for parties to navigate themselves.
Once a divorce application has been issued, the applicant is able to apply for what is known as a Conditional Order, 20 weeks from the date that the application was issued. This is in essence the ‘halfway point’ and replaces what was formally known as Decree Nisi. The timescales imposed by the new legislation are slightly more protracted though this does not detract from the positive benefits these changes have brought to separating couples. Once Conditional Order has been pronounced, the applicant can apply for Final Order, formally Decree Absolute, six weeks and one day from the date of the Conditional Order.
Whilst the divorce proceedings progress uncontested, we are seeing more often that parties are sometimes unclear that the matrimonial finances remain unresolved until a financial order has been approved by a judge. Until a financial order is sealed, the parties’ financial claims against one another remain open even after Final Order is pronounced in the divorce. We therefore strongly advise all our clients that they look to resolve their financial position as soon as possible. There are various options that the parties may wish to explore in order to reach a financial settlement, to ensure their claims against one another are resolved moving forward:
- If parties are able to agree a financial settlement with their former spouse, this agreement will need to be drafted into a financial order and sent to court for approval.
- Parties may wish to consider the route of meditation or engage in other methods of alternative dispute resolution with a view to achieving settlement outside of the court area but with the assistance of an independent third parties. Following a successful mediation, a Financial Order will still be required.
- We are able to assist parties in resolving their financial position if all involved are in agreement to engage in a voluntary exchange of financial disclosure. This route will allow lawyer led negotiations to assist the parties in resolving and/or narrowing the issues.
- If parties are unable to achieve a settlement with any of the above options, there is the option to make an application to court for financial remedy.
If you would like to discuss any of the above, or indeed any other issues relating to divorce or separation, our team of specialist family law solicitors are more than happy to discuss your situation with you. Please be in contact by telephone or email.