In April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force, which reformed the divorce laws in England and Wales. The main reforms were the removal of the ‘fault’ or blame element of the divorce process, and the introduction of the joint divorce application – where both spouses or civil partners could apply for a divorce or dissolution together (a mutual divorce).
Parties are now only required to confirm that their marriage or civil partnership ‘has irretrievably broken down’. It is no longer necessary to provide specific details as to why the relationship has irretrievably broken down. The intention of the Act was to remove conflict and reduce the acrimony of divorce.
What is a joint divorce application?
Under the Act, it is now possible for a couple to end their relationship together, and jointly complete the application for divorce or dissolution and submit it as joint applicants.
The new process makes it far easier for those who wish to amicably end to their relationship and to divorce without using a lawyer.
What is the difference between a sole and joint divorce application?
The steps for commencing a joint or sole application for divorce or dissolution are the same.
The divorce process begins with an application to Court for a divorce, known as a Divorce Application. For a sole application, the person making the application for divorce or dissolution is known as the Applicant, and the other party is known as the Respondent.
In the case of a joint application, both parties are Applicants (known as Applicant 1 and Applicant 2).
Once the Court issues the divorce application it is sent to Applicant 2, who has to confirm receipt and confirm the contents of the application. As both parties are Applicants, they can complete the application for divorce or dissolution together, which removes the necessity for an Acknowledgement of Service form to be served and returned.
Once the contents of the application have been responded to, there is a mandatory 20-week reflection period, where no further action can be taken until 20 weeks has elapsed.
Following the 20 weeks has elapsed, it is possible to apply for the first of two divorce orders – the Conditional Order. The Conditional Order confirms the entitlement to a divorce in law.
Once 6 weeks and 1 day have passed from the date of the Conditional Order, it is possible to apply for the Final Order, which legally ends the marriage or civil partnership.
For those who began a joint application but find themselves in a situation where they cannot continue with it, perhaps because of a deterioration in the relationship with the other applicant, or if the other party fails to take the necessary action required to progress the application, it is possible to ‘switch’ the application from joint to sole. It is, however, not possible to change a sole divorce application to a joint application.
Who pays for a joint divorce application?
As the divorce is mutual, it is normal for the Court fee to be shared between the parties. The Court Fee must be paid by Applicant 1, as there is no option of sharing this with Applicant 2 on the Court system.
Is it quicker to make a joint application for divorce?
The process for a joint application of divorce or dissolution of civil partnership takes roughly the same amount of time as a sole application. Some time may however be saved if the joint application is signed by both parties at the same time thus dispensing with the need for service.
What are the benefits of joint application for a divorce or dissolution?
The key benefits to a joint divorce application are:
A more amicable divorce – Joint proceedings reflect that a couple both agree their relationship has irretrievably broken down, and both want the relationship to end.
Easier and quicker – By applying for a divorce/dissolution jointly, a couple can navigate the divorce process together. With mutual cooperation and agreement, couples can achieve a divorce in about 6 to 7 months.
No nasty surprises – Both parties are aware of the divorce or dissolution from the outset.
Mutual Involvement – As both parties are fully involved in the process, neither party will feel left out as they are jointly sharing the responsibilities and decisions involved in ending their relationship.
Emotional preparation – A couple can proceed when they both feel ready – allowing them time to emotionally prepare.
Less acrimonious and traumatic – As both parties are jointly involved and have chosen to end their relationship together, they can focus on the future, and not dwell on the past. This encourages couples to cooperate constructively when considering important issues such as reaching an agreed divorce financial settlement, and arrangements for any children.
Far cheaper – By receiving joint divorce legal advice there is only one legal cost involved (instead of the need to pay two sets of legal fees by using two lawyers). Using one divorce professional can save a couple an average of £2,300 per person.
When is a joint divorce application not appropriate?
A joint divorce application may not be appropriate where there has been domestic violence, or an inequality of power where one party tries to dominate the decision-making process, which may lead to an unequal or unfair outcome.
We always screen for possible scenarios where a joint divorce application may not be appropriate.
Is a joint application preferable to a sole application for divorce?
A joint divorce application is a “statement of intent” and simplifies matters by demonstrating both parties agree that their marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. Parties who agree to end their relationship together are more likely to reach a negotiated amicable financial settlement.
Frequently asked questions and other helpful information
Are joint applications common?
Government statistics show of the 121,880 divorce applications filed since the introduction of the no-fault divorce law in April 2022, 26,174 couples opted for a joint divorce. This equates to one in every five couples jointly divorcing.
Why is the take up for joint applications so low?
Joint divorce applications were only introduced in April 2022, so it is a relatively new concept. The combination of a lack of public awareness of this option may be a contributing factor as to why joint divorces aren’t being fully taken advantage of yet.
What happens if I have a disagreement with my spouse or civil partner after issuing a joint application?
It is possible to alter a joint divorce to a sole divorce in the event of a disagreement. This prevents one spouse or partner from attempting to exert control or power over the other.
Should a Final Order be sought if financial or children issues have not been resolved?
It is better to try to resolve financial or children issues before completing the divorce or dissolution and applying for the Final Order. The 20-week reflection period is designed to allow couples time to address other issues such as finances or arrangements for children. Applying for the Final Order before financial matters are resolved could mean that you lose out on your spouse or partner’s pension entitlement and other benefits such as health care or death in service.
Can I file for divorce while living in the same house?
Yes, it is no longer necessary to be living apart to commence proceedings for divorce or dissolution. As long as you consider your marriage has irretrievably broken down you can apply to end your relationship.
Do I need two Solicitors for a joint application for divorce or dissolution?
If you are making a joint application, one divorce specialist can prepare the divorce application for you both.
What documents do you need for a divorce?
You will need the original marriage certificate or certificate of civil partnership. If the ceremony took place abroad, you will also need a translation of the certificate.