In 2018, the UK Government confirmed that divorce law would be reformed in England and Wales. They acknowledged that current divorce laws are out of touch with modern life and proposed changes to remove blame from the divorce process.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 introduces several changes to divorce law set to come into effect in abril 2022. Under these new laws, couples will be able to get divorced solely because the marriage has broken down without having to cite one of the five facts of divorce. This is also known as a no-fault divorce which essentially removes any blame from the divorce process.
This means that if the couple agrees to a divorce and the divorce is amicable or uncontested, there won't be a requirement for one person to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage.
The new laws seek to align the divorce law process with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law – encouraging a forward-looking non-confrontational approach wherever possible, thereby reducing conflict and its damaging effect on children in particular.
The bill removes the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down. It is hoped that by removing the blame game, couples will be able to pursue an amicable and cost-effective divorce, without the fear of their application being contested.
Currently, one spouse has to make accusations about the other’s conduct, such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery, or otherwise face years of separation before a divorce can be granted – regardless of whether a couple has made a mutual decision to separate. The new system will allow a spouse, or a couple, to apply for divorce by making a statement of irretrievable breakdown. This aims to end the needless “blame game” between couples and parents.
These changes will also apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships. It is hoped that the above will simplify the current process and make it less contentious.
Other changes to divorce law in 2022
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 also brings about other changes to the law which will introduce new terminology. For example what is currently known as the Decree Nisi will become the “Conditional Order” and the Decree Absolute will become the “Final Order”. The new process will also no longer refer to the party applying as the Petitioner, but instead, as the Applicant.
Additionally, a new extended minimum timeframe of six months from the initial application stage to the granting of a divorce will also be created. This allows the parties sufficient time to contemplate their decision, which may even result in reconciliation. The 6 weeks and 1 day period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order will remain in place.
Finally, the new reform will not provide the Respondent with the ability to contest the divorce, which will provide the Applicant with the reassurance that they will not be forced into expensive and prolonged court proceedings to deal with a defended divorce by their spouse.
It has been confirmed that no fault divorces will be available to individuals from 6 abril 2022. The changes will not come into effect until next year to allow careful implementation to the necessary changes to court, online and paper processes.
Get in touch with our family law solicitors
In most divorce cases it is not necessary to have court proceedings, as long as communications are handled with care and understanding. Our experienced divorce solicitors can help individuals during each step of the divorce process and will keep you informed at every stage.
We will provide confidential legal advice that is tailored to you and your personal situation. We will do our absolute best to minimise any distress by making the process as quick and comfortable as possible.
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