What’s right for me? Understanding a joint divorce application.

With the introduction of ‘no fault divorce’ in April this year, came the new concept of a joint divorce application. You may now be wondering whether to apply on your own or jointly with your spouse.

A joint application could well be the right choice for you, but each situation is different, so it’s important to consider both options before you proceed.

Why is a joint application now an option?

One of the reasons for the introduction of ‘no fault divorce’ was to remove the requirement for one spouse to blame another in a divorce application, as it is intended to reduce the acrimony of divorce. The idea of couples applying together is intended to reduce the acrimony even further. By applying together, there is not one spouse driving the divorce from the other.

How is the process different?

The basic steps of a divorce are the same for sole and joint applications. The process starts with an application to court for a divorce, known as your divorce application. The Court then issues your divorce application and sends a copy to the respondent, who has to formally confirm receipt of the application (known as completing an acknowledgement of service). 

For a joint application, the application is sent to Applicant 2, who has to confirm receipt and confirm the contents of the application. 

Once 20 weeks have passed from your divorce application being issued, you can apply for the first of two divorce orders – your conditional order. Your conditional order confirms that you are entitled to a divorce, but you are not divorced at this stage. The Court will set a date for your conditional order to be pronounced. 

Once 6 weeks and 1 day have passed from the date of your conditional order, you can apply for your final order, which legally dissolves your marriage. However, sometimes people are advised to delay this final step pending an agreement being reached regarding finances.

What do I need to know when considering a joint application?

The most obvious difference between a sole and joint application is that you and your spouse are both applicants in the divorce application. However, one of you will still need to be ‘Applicant 1’ and the other ‘Applicant 2’, but both of you are equally responsible for the application throughout. 

This means that in each stage of the application, the divorce application, the application for conditional order, and the application for final order, both applicants will need to co-ordinate and apply together. Some people feel worried that the other person will not cooperate if they start a joint application, although it is possible to switch to a sole application if you encounter difficulties with your spouse, but you cannot switch from a sole application to a joint application. 

When dealing with the Court Fee, this must be paid by Applicant 1, and there is no option of sharing this with Applicant 2 on the system. The Court is encouraging couples to share the fee between them, without the Court’s involvement. This is the same for both sole and joint applications, the applicant in a sole, or Applicant 1 in joint, must pay the Court fee. 

If you are considering applying for help with fees (a reduction in the Court fee if you meet certain criteria), for a joint application both applicants must be eligible for help with fees. If one party is not eligible for help with fees, you must pay the full court fee of £563. 

When might a joint application not be appropriate?

There are some instances where joint applications are not appropriate, for example when there has been a history of domestic abuse. In either case, it is always best to seek expert advice before making a decision. If you are considering a sole or joint divorce application, you can reach me on 01865 692158 or at lauren.pilcher@hedgeslaw.co.uk and I can help you understand which might be right for you.

The changes mean that a spouse, or a couple jointly, can now apply for divorce by stating their marriage has broken down irretrievably. It removes unnecessary finger-pointing and acrimony at a time where emotions are already running high, and spares children from witnessing their parents mudslinging.