Sky News have recently reported that divorce applications are the highest they have been in a decade. I, and I expect most Family practitioners, will not be surprised by the figures. However, in my view it is not simply down to No Fault divorce being available. Many of our clients who have instructed us since No Fault divorce was introduced have been holding out, and waiting for this option to become available to them. This view is supported in the same article which states that decree absolute pronouncements were down 35% in April to June 2022 compared to 2021. These figures to me would indicate that fewer people had filed petitions in the lead up to say 6 months before those dates. This was a time when we knew for certain No Fault divorce was on the way.
We had been assured for years that No Fault divorce was coming, unfortunately Covid-19 ensured that it was delayed just that bit longer and therefore many people did not want to commence the fault-based process of divorce and instead waited to use the No Fault divorce option which meant that the subject of blame within the divorce petition at least could be avoided.
The new No Fault divorce petitions do enforce a 20-week time period between the issuing of the divorce application and the ability to apply for the conditional order, but given the delays incurred with paper petitions (again time delays are mentioned in the same article) this is a small price to pay in comparison. Separated couples can also use this time to negotiate a financial settlement and agree arrangements in relation to any children. Where there is urgency there is the option of a separation agreement prior to a consent order being filed with the court.
There is, of course, the possibility that more people are getting divorced. Covid-19 and the years that have followed have put increasing pressure on families causing relationship breakdown. Families will now have to tackle the cost of living crisis, which will unfortunately put more pressure on couples. Either way, I do not believe that No Fault divorce has in any way encouraged more people to get divorced however only time will tell.
If you are ready to seek some legal advice in relation to your relationship breakdown, please contact one of the Family team.