In April 2022 we saw the most fundamental change in divorce law in England and Wales in decades with the long-awaited introduction of “no fault” divorce. Separating couples can now choose to divorce without apportioning blame by simply making a statement that the marriage has irretrievable broken down. Please see our blog No Fault Divorce – what you need to know.
No-fault divorce process
The divorce application, which can now be made by either one or both spouses jointly, starts the process. There is then a “cooling off period” of 20 weeks before an application can be made for the next stage of the process, the Conditional Order.
Even after a Conditional Order has been granted, a couple are still married and will remain married until the Final Order has been applied for and granted. A Final Order can be applied for 6 weeks after the date of a Conditional Order.
What is the effect of a Final Order?
After a Final Order has been granted the couple are no longer married to each other and are free to re-marry. They will no longer be automatically entitled to certain important benefits/rights that they would have had as a married couple. This potentially includes (but is not limited to) the following:
- Entitlement to widow’s pension
- Entitlement to spouse’s life insurance policy
- Entitlement to death in service benefits
- Right to occupy a property owned by their spouse by virtue of matrimonial Home Rights
- Entitlement under spouse’s Will or under Intestacy Rules (although, there is the potential to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, you can read more about this here)
- The ability to make claims against assets held offshore
For this reason, its common practice for a divorcing couple to reach an agreement that they will not apply for a Final Order until financial arrangements have been agreed and approved by the court.
What happens if my spouse will not agree to delay applying for a Final Order?
It is understandable to feel very vulnerable in this situation especially if your spouse is in control of the finances or if you have young children.
Please note that, while Final Order brings the marriage to an end, it does not stop either one of you from making financial claims against the other. You can apply for a financial order at any time in the divorce process or after Final Order has been granted.
If your spouse is insisting on applying for a Final Order and you are worried about your future, there is some protection available to you. This includes making an application to the court asking it to consider your financial position after divorce and to delay the making of a Final Order until this has been properly considered and/or provided for.
If you would like to find out more about this and some other ways to protect yourself in this situation, please do not hesitate to contact us to find out more.