• April 20, 2024
 ‘Long way until family law catches up with reality’ on anniversary of no-fault divorce

‘Long way until family law catches up with reality’ on anniversary of no-fault divorce

A London law firm has commented on the modern relationship landscape, after two years since the introduction of no-fault divorces in the UK. 

The latest divorce figures have shown a decline in applications, despite an expected surge due to the mandatory 20-week waiting period. 

Between October and December 2023 there were 23,517 divorce applications under the new legislation, with predictions for a surge in divorces this summer following the 20-week cooling off period for couples going through a divorce. There were 23,517 applications made (75% from sole applicants, 25% from joint applicants), including those for dissolution of civil partnerships Annually, there were 110,770 divorce applications filed and 103,501 final orders granted throughout 2023, down 9% and up 29% respectively compared to 2022.

The mean average time for divorce and annulment cases to reach first disposal was 42 weeks in the recorded time frame – this includes both old and new divorce cases, with the former covering applications which would have been made some time ago, and the latter incorporating a 20-week wait between application and the conditional order. For new cases alone, the mean average time was 37 weeks.

Reflecting on the second anniversary of the introduction of no fault divorce on 6 April,Nick Gova, partner and head of family at London law firm Spector Constant & Williams said:

“By removing the need to apportion blame at the start of the process, no fault divorce has taken the heat and conflict out of many divorces. It has also helped couples to start constructive discussions about children and finances earlier on in the process. Couples are also making use of the ability to make a joint divorce application, with 61.1% of divorces under the new law made as joint applications.

“Some commentators had expected an increase in divorces following the introduction of no fault divorce but the latest statistics for 2022 show that the divorce rate fell to the lowest level since 1971. A major factor in the drop in divorces is the impact of the cost of living crisis and worries about the financial impact of divorce and selling the family home.

“No fault divorce was the biggest change to family law in a generation, but there is still a long way for family law to go to catch up with the reality of modern families. In particular, co-habiting couples don’t receive the same protections as married couples, which can lead to very unfair outcomes if they split up, particularly for the partner who may earn less.”

Calls for cohabitation reform to be pushed forward, in trine with the modern relationship landscape, reflects the need for a legal shift that affords cohabiting couples legal protection.

Many couples choose to live together without getting married first, but legal experts have cautioned co-habiting couples about the ‘dangers of not having agreements in place’ prior to moving in to a shared property. The risks aren’t exclusive to younger age groups with representatives from Clifton Ingham saying there are ‘potential issues with living together across all age groups’.

Labour MP Thornberry claims she wants to make ‘significant changes’ to laws around cohabitation this year. The reforms have gained momentum over recent years, prompting the UK parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee to advocate for changes that align with the evolving nature of modern relationships.

Cohabitation has seen a significant rise in popularity. With 1 in 4 unwed couples are now sharing a household.

Firm Clifton Ingram have said that ‘not enough is being done to raise awareness of the risks associated with cohabiting unmarried couples, which may negatively impact women and children the most’.

This comes after reviewing data which shows cohabitation has seen a significant rise in popularity, with 1 in 4 unwed couples now sharing a household, an increase from 20.6% in 2011 to 24.3% in 2021 across all age groups under 85.

Eve Tawfick, Editor

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