If you are considering ending your marriage, you may be wondering whether divorce or dissolution applies to your case. This post covers the main differences, as well as some other frequently asked questions.
Divorce or dissolution: what is the difference?
Divorce and dissolution essentially achieve the same thing: they end a legally-binding relationship. Where they differ is that divorce applies to ending a marriage, while dissolution applies to ending a civil partnership. The couple must have been in the marriage or civil partnership for at least one year before applying for divorce or dissolution, whichever is relevant.
How much does a divorce or dissolution cost?
A court fee of £593 is required to apply for a divorce or dissolution. On top of this, if you are using a solicitor to help you navigate the process, you will need to pay solicitors’ fees.
Do I need a solicitor for divorce or dissolution?
While using a solicitor for divorce or dissolution is not mandatory, there are several benefits to doing so. For example:
- Help manage any conflicts and speak to your spouse on your behalf
- Represent you and your best interests if you have to appear in Court
- Help ensure the best interests of your children are represented
- Provide legal advice to help you make the best decisions for you and your family
Setfords’ expert family lawyers can help you achieve all of this and more. Click below to speak to us and learn more about how we can help you.
Is a divorce or dissolution the same as an annulment?
Annulment involves ending a marriage by demonstrating that it was never valid in the eyes of the law in the first place (void), or that it was technically valid but meets criteria that means it is no longer valid (voidable).
What are the grounds for a divorce or dissolution?
Traditionally, there is only one ground for divorce or dissolution, and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. In the past, if married couples or those in a civil partnership wanted a divorce or dissolution to end their relationship, they would have to demonstrate the breakdown of the relationship by proving one of these facts:
- Adultery (Please not that this only applies for divorces; adultery cannot be given as the reason for the irretreievable breakdown of a civil partnership)
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation, meaning living apart, either for two years with both parties’ consent, or for five years without this
- Desertion – where one spouse has left without the other’s agreement and with the intention to cause the end of the relationship, for at least 2 out of the previous 2.5 years
The first two in the list would be considered ‘fault-based’ reasons
However, since April 2022, so-called divorce laws have changed and ‘no-fault’ divorces and dissolutions have been introduced in England and Wales. This means that you no longer have to give a reason for the divorce or dissolution. A statement that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down is enough. Please note that laws are different in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
What is the Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act 2020?
The Divorce, Dissolution, and Separation Act 2020 amended the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004. It allows for the removal of fault-based divorce proceedings, the simplification of the terms used throughout the process, a new 26-week timeframe for proceedings, the removal of the option to defend the divorce in most circumstances, and allows for joint applications to be made. The Act also applies to civil partnerships.
When can you apply for a divorce or dissolution?
To apply for divorce or dissolution, you must have been married or in a civil partnership for at least a year.
How long does it take?
Applying for a divorce or dissolution now takes a minimum of 26 weeks, or six months. This is comprised of:
- A minimum of 20 weeks between the application being issued and the conditional order applied for
- A minimum of 6 weeks and 1 day between the conditional order and the application for the final order
The exact timelines will depend on a number of factors, including: how quickly you are able to come to a financial arrangement and other important decisions; whether you need to go to court to agree upon the details; and whether you’re making a sole or joint application for no fault divorce.
What if we have been together for less than a year, but want a divorce or dissolution?
You can only apply for a divorce or dissolution if you have been in a legally-binding relationship, i.e. married or in a civil partnership for one year or more. If it has been less than a year, you can choose to undergo a legal separation and wait until the year has passed. You can do this on an informal basis, or apply for a Judicial Separation. This enables you to be legally separated and make formal decisions about finances, living arrangements, and more, without ending the marriage or civil partnership.