The law on divorce, dissolution and separation in England and Wales is set to change significantly from 6 April 2022. This comes after many years of campaigning for a no-fault divorce system. ‘Out’ goes the need to apportion blame or to demonstrate periods of separation, and ‘In’ comes a simplified and less acrimonious divorce, dissolution and separation process.
After almost 50 years of waiting, a party seeking a divorce or dissolution will no longer have to prove that the other party is at fault, or that there have been periods of separation. Under the new law, all that is required is for the Court to be provided with a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership without any evidence being required to support that statement.
It is hoped that by removing the need to blame there will be fewer cases being disputed, and less conflict between the parties during what would already be a very difficult period for them. Disputing a divorce will become rarer as there will only be very limited technical grounds upon which a party is able to raise a defence.
The new regime allows parties to make a joint application which, has never been possible in the past. Whilst it is appreciated that a joint application may not be suitable for all, there are instances where parties wish to separate amicably and applying jointly may be a better option for them as it reflects their joint decision.
Has anything else changed?
The new law introduces a more simplified and unified language for divorce, dissolution and separation. Many of the key and well-known phrases will be replaced, for instance:
|Old terminology||New terminology|
|Decree Nisi||Conditional Order|
|Decree Absolute||Final Order|
The new law also introduces a minimum overall timeframe of 26 weeks (i.e. six months). There will be a minimum 20-week period from when the Court issues the application to when the applicant(s) can apply for the Conditional Order. Thereafter once the Conditional Order has been granted, there will be a 6-week period before the applicant(s) can apply for the Final Order. The aim of the timeframe is to allow a cooling off period for reflection by the parties. It also allows parties the opportunity to consider and agree other matters such as the finances and arrangements for any children.
It should be noted that the new timeframe establishes a minimum period. There may be cases where the Final Order in divorce or dissolution may be delayed by agreement; for example, until the Court has made a financial order.
It remains to be seen whether these changes will indeed achieve the desired outcome of a less acrimonious divorce, dissolution and separation process. It will also be interesting to see whether it will speed up the divorce process which, has been often criticised for its alleged delays and inefficiencies.
If you are going through a relationship breakdown and require legal advice, please contact our specialist family lawyers on 020 7935 3522.
Whatever your personal circumstances the above is only a guide and we would advise you to contact us to obtain definitive advice as you will appreciate that each person’s circumstances are unique to them.