Launched in 2022, no fault divorces were the biggest shake-up in divorce law for more than half a century – and officially marked the end of the blame game. Now, couples can separate without pointing the finger or apportioning blame for the failure of their marriage.
But this amicable alternative does come with a bit of a catch.
As part of the new system, a new ‘cooling off’ period was also introduced. This is a mandatory 20-week wait – from the date of the application to the date when the conditional order is issued – in which the couple are expected to reflect on their relationship and agree on any practical matters. Following which, a further 6 weeks needs to pass before the final order is granted.
But what if you’re eager to press on? Is there any way this timeframe can be shortened, allowing you to part ways and move on with your lives more quickly?
Here we take a closer look.
Speeding up the no fault divorce process
Under historical legislation, the court had the power to reduce mandatory timeframes within divorce proceedings – including the 6 weeks between the Decree Nisi and Decree Absolut.
Divorce laws may have changed significantly, and no blame divorces may have been introduced. However, the court still retains this power. And in some circumstances, it is possible to expedite both the 20-week cooling off period and the 6-week wait between the conditional and final order.
How do we know this? Because it’s recently been done. Earlier this month, a national law firm announced that it had successfully applied to the court to shorten the 20-week window for its client – making it the first case of its kind.
Sadly, the client in question had life-limiting health issues. Any delays in the no fault divorce process would have been detrimental, and a quick divorce was deemed beneficial (and essential) for several reasons. Most notably, the client needed to know exactly what assets and income they had available to meet their challenging 24-hour care requirements.
As a result, an application was made to the court to abridge the mandatory 20-week wait.
The court approved the application and produced a conditional order much earlier than expected, just 10 weeks after the divorce application was submitted. If necessary, they also granted further permission to expedite the final order, too.
It’s all about the circumstances
An expedition of the 20-week cooling off period is certainly possible…but it’s important to keep in mind, this is very rare. In the case study outlined above, the conditional order wasn’t granted at the drop of a hat. The court maintains the view that mandatory timeframes should only be shortened in exceptional circumstances.
Of course, each application is considered based on its own merits. However, there are only two common reasons why a judge would typically agree to reduce the wait time:
1. Illness – where one spouse or civil partner is terminally ill, or has a life-limiting illness, and there’s a chance the no fault divorce may not have concluded before their death.
2. The best interests of the child – for example, in circumstances where a baby is due to be born to one spouse or civil partner, and the parent wishes to remarry before the birth.
Think you have grounds to join the fast lane?
The reality is there’s no such as a ‘quickie divorce’.
For most people, a no fault divorce will take a minimum of 6 months from start to finish, made up of a 20-week cooling off period and a minimum of 6 weeks between the conditional order and final order. And it’s incredibly difficult to exploit this ‘expedition loophole’ to speed things up.
However, it isn’t impossible. If you believe you have ‘exceptional circumstances’, such as those highlighted above, and a court would consider it appropriate to shorten the mandatory timeframes, it’s worth applying.
Here at St Helens Law, we can help.
Our team of experienced family law solicitors are highly knowledgeable in this area. We always endeavour to make the no fault divorce process as smooth and efficient as possible. And wherever necessary, we’ll apply to the courts and do everything in our power to reduce the standard timeframes.
For tailored advice on no fault divorce law, the first step is to get in touch.
Arrange a free initial consultation by either filling out our online form or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or if you have any questions and would like to discuss your individual circumstances with our family law solicitors, you’re welcome to call us at any time on 01744 742360.