As we approach a significant and long-awaited change in divorce law in the UK, it is more important than ever for family law practitioners to follow the Resolution code of practice.
Resolution is an organisation which aims to keep family law matters as amicable and cost effective as possible. Over the last few years, one of its primary objectives has been for divorce law to change from the fault-based system introduced in 1973 to no-fault, reflecting modern times and trends.
Resolution was successful in their campaign, and we welcome the fact that that no-fault divorce will be introduced from 6 April 2022, with the old fault-based system falling away.
Of course, this will not take away from the emotional stress that comes with a marriage breakdown, but it will avoid any extra stress and tension that comes with ‘blaming’ one party for the relationship ending.
It is hoped that the change in the law will allow this process to become less inflammatory and ensure any financial discussions will start in an agreeable way.
The fundamental aspect of divorce hasn’t changed and the only reason for divorce in the UK remains as an “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”. The main change relates to how you prove this breakdown. The new law completely removes the ‘blame game’ and the reliance on the fact of unreasonable behaviour or adultery (if parties want to divorce immediately, rather than wait for two years/five years) and allows the divorce to proceed with neither party being at fault.
There is also a change in the timescales. The new procedure sets out that once an application for divorce has been made, it will take 20 weeks before a conditional order is made. A conditional order is the equivalent to the decree nisi used in the current system.
Thereafter, you can apply for a final order – the equivalent to the decree absolute – six weeks and one day after the conditional order, which will finalise the divorce. It is extremely helpful that we now have a set timescale for the divorce procedure so that we plan accordingly and try to resolve financial matters in the period between the application and conditional order to allow a consent order to be lodged.
In general, and in addition to Resolution’s focus on changing divorce law; there are several key pillars that form the basis of the Code of Practice which we incorporate into all family law matters. These commitments are to:
- Reduce or manage any conflict and confrontation, for example, by not using inflammatory language in correspondence.
- Support and encourage families to put the best interests of any children first.
- Act with honesty, integrity, and objectivity. Help clients understand and manage the potential long-term financial and emotional consequences of decisions.
- Listen to and treat everyone with respect and without judgment.
- Use our experience and knowledge to guide clients through the options available to them.
- Continually develop our knowledge and skills to reflect a changing world.
My own commitment to the code is such that I have recently been appointed to the Young Resolution Board for the West Midlands, which allows solicitors and legal professionals to promote the Resolution way amongst our peers and develop our skills in practice.