In June 2020 the government's Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act was passed, reforming the divorce process and opening the way to no-fault divorce.
It was expected that this change would be implemented in the autumn of this year, but it now expected to be introduced in April 2022.
This will mark a significant change in divorce procedure in England and Wales. Couples will soon be able to get divorced or dissolve their civil partnership without either party having to be blamed for the end of the marriage or partnership.
Currently, divorcing couples must choose from one of three facts to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and by doing so assign blame - or fault - for the breakdown of the relationship:
- Unreasonable behaviour
If none of the three facts above apply a couple have two choices. If both people in the relationship agree to the divorce, they must separate and wait for two years before they can petition for divorce. Alternatively, if one of the parties does not agree, they must wait five years.
Under the new law, couples will be able to end their marriage or partnership without needing to prove fault or wrong-doing, or by separating for a lengthy period. This should see divorce proceedings become less acrimonious and more supportive of couples wishing to move forward constructively.
The law will introduce some key changes, including:
- The irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will be the sole ground for a divorce. Rather than having to prove one of the five facts, a statement of irretrievable breakdown will be sufficient.
- Joint applications for divorce will be introduced, although one party will still be able to start divorce proceedings on their own.
- Contesting the divorce will no longer be an option, but there will still be some legal grounds for challenging the divorce if needed.
- A six-month cooling off period will be established starting from the initial petition to the final divorce. This will give couples time to ensure they are making the right decision, and plenty of time to make sure financial issues can be resolved before the divorce is finalised.
What benefits will the changes bring?
- Couples will not be forced to choose a blameworthy party or be pitted against each other. Simply being able to say the relationship has failed without having to dredge up evidence of bad behaviour or painful memories will hopefully ease the stress of the process for everyone involved.
- It is more likely the divorce will end amicably if it's what both parties want.
- It'll provide both parties with more time to deal with financial issues.
Fosters provides a tailor-made approach to your divorce, offering clear, sensible advice at an affordable cost. If you would like to speak to one of our experienced Family solicitors regarding your relationship breakdown, please contact us on 01603 620508 or complete our online enquiry form.