The Government has now announced that The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into force on 6th April 2022. What this means is that we will finally be able to offer clients whose marriage has sadly come to an end, a divorce without blame. A no-fault divorce.
How will the new legislation change the current law on divorce?
At present, you may apply for a divorce in England and Wales if you have been married for at least 12 months, your permanent home is England or Wales is and/or you are domiciled in England or Wales if you live abroad.
You must also establish the only one ground for divorce and that is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. One party must be able to prove the irretrievable breakdown by illustrating one or more of the following 5 reasons for divorce: (1) Adultery (2) Unreasonable Behaviour (3) 2-year Separation with consent (4) 5-year separation without consent (5) Desertion
Naturally, having to establish one of the five reasons can add to the conflict that may already exist between the parties following difficulties within the marriage.
It is understood that the new legislation will provide for the following changes to the current law on divorce:
- There will still be a requirement to have been married for 12 months before commencement of the divorce process and there will be no requirement for evidence or proof.
- The requirement to provide evidence of ‘conduct’ or ‘separation facts are replaced with a simple requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership to obtain a judicial separation.
- Either or both parties may apply for a divorce and there will no longer be the opportunity to oppose the divorce.
- Parties will now have the opportunity to make joint applications for divorce, dissolution, and separation, meaning that couples can now apply together for a divorce, dissolution, or separation.
- There will be a new minimum overall timeframe of six months (26 weeks). This will be made up of a ‘minimum period’ of 20 weeks in divorce and dissolution proceedings between the start of proceedings (When the court issues the application) and when the applicant(s) may apply for a conditional order and the current minimum timeframe of 6 weeks between the conditional order and when the order can be made final. This is to ensure a period of reflection.
- The Divorce Petition will be known as the Application for Divorce.
- The Decree Nisi will be known as the Conditional Order.
- The Decree Absolute will be known as the Final Order.
Will a no-fault divorce be quicker?
Not necessarily. It is understood that the process will take at least 6 months to complete.
Upon presenting your Application for Divorce, there will be a minimum of 20 weeks before a Conditional Order can be made by the Court. This is to provide the parties with a reasonable period time to reflect upon the marital breakdown and resolve issues concerning finances and the children if appropriate. There will then be a period of 6 weeks before one party can apply for their Conditional Order to be turned in to a Final Order.
By removing blame from the legal process and reducing the level of conflict, especially where there are children involved, parties will be able to resolve their differences in a more non-confrontational and effective manner.
Will this impact Financial Matters?
Although this move is a focus upon making the system more user-friendly and accessible for parties hoping to get divorced, the law remains the same in that finalising a divorce does not mean financial matters are also resolved. Financial matters between spouses remain open until a Financial Consent Order is granted by the Court. Parties are encouraged to seek advice in relation to how to protect their future and to ensure that financial matters are dealt with properly so there is no possibility of a financial claim against them in the future.
Family Law Practitioners have been keeping their fingers crossed for this new Legislation for far too many years but finally, as of 6th April 2022, there will be no more pointing of fingers between parties, only a thumbs up to a more amicable and non-confrontational divorce process.
Our friendly and skilled team of family lawyers are here to provide you with expert legal advice. We are committed to providing outstanding service and achieving the best possible outcome for our clients.
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