Divorce Law is changing on 6th April 2022 – The End of The “Blame Game”

There are imminent and significant forthcoming changes in divorce law. Historically divorce and dissolution of a civil partnership were dealt with under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. The new law is the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. Formerly, an application for a divorce or dissolution had to be based on the grounds that the marriage or civil partnership had broken down irretrievably. In order to support that contention, the Applicant had to rely on one of the following facts or reasons as detailed below:-

a. That the other person had committed adultery and the Applicant finds in intolerable to live with the other person

b. That the other person had behaved in such a way that the Applicant could not reasonably be expected to live with that person

c. Desertion by the other person for 2 years or more

d. Living separately and apart for 2 years or more with the other persons consent to a divorce

e. Living separately and apart for 5 years or more when the other persons consent is not required

Following years of campaigning on the basis the previous law was now outdated, the introduction of no fault divorce will remove the legal requirement to put blame on one of the parties to the marriage to enable the Courts to agree to grant a divorce, a decree of judicial separation or dissolve a civil partnership. Therefore, there will be a radical change on 6th April 2022 when the divorce law in England and Wales will change with the introduction of no fault divorce and dissolution and this will be the first significant change to divorce laws in the UK since 1973. As from 6th April 2022, couples will no longer have to rely on one of the five reasons as listed above to prove that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and instead, there will be a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

Another change is for the first time, both parties to the marriage can apply jointly for a divorce, judicial separation or dissolution, or individually. A judicial separation or legal separation allows couples to live apart without divorcing or ending a civil partnership and this maybe a preferred option for people with religious reasons or if they have been married or in a civil partnership for less than a year and therefore cannot commence divorce proceedings.

The previous ability to contest or defend a divorce will also be removed under the new law. The terms Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute will no longer apply and will be replaced with Conditional and Final Orders. Previously, following the introduction of the online divorce system, straight forward divorces were taking around 4 months. However, under the new law, which will also apply to the online system, it will take around a minimum of 6 months or 26 weeks from start to conclusion. Under the new law, there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of the process until the Conditional Order can be made so that in that period, both parties may consider and reflect whether they really want to end the marriage by divorce. As under the previous law, there will be a wait of six weeks and one day between the Conditional Order and being able to apply for the Final Order to bring the marriage to an end.

It is still necessary to deal separately with any matrimonial finances or property or any child arrangement issues. Woolliscrofts are able to give specialist advice on these matters.