The no fault-based divorce procedure is anticipated on 6th April 2022. Under the new procedure, there will be a 26-week period between starting the divorce and the final order being made. At present, a divorce can be finalised in as little as 12 to 16 weeks.
Under the new procedure, the person who does not start the divorce (the Respondent) will have less notice of the proceedings than the Applicant. This is because the 26 weeks will run from the date of the petition being filed with the court and not the date it is served on the Respondent.
The Applicant will be able to apply for the conditional order (now known as the decree nisi) any time after 20 weeks from the filing of the petition. However, this is subject to the Respondent having been served with the petition at some point beforehand. The final order (now known as decree absolute) can be applied for six weeks later.
The rules will say that the Respondent should be served with the petition within 28 days of filing the papers at court. The online system will still be used. In reality, if the Applicant did not serve the Respondent in 28 days, the timetable will continue and they may only serve notice shortly before the conditional order is made. The Applicant may deliberately avoid service to delay any financial proceedings being brought. The final order is more likely to be made before financial matters are resolved and this could prejudice the Respondent.
The Law Society suggested that the final order should not be made until financial arrangements were finalised, where this could be detrimental to either spouse. It was also suggested that the notice period should not start until the Respondent was aware of the petition. However, these suggestions have not been adopted and the notice period will run from the date the petition is lodged with the court.