The introduction of no-fault divorces, under the Divorce, Dissolution & Separation Act 2020, will fundamentally change the divorce process with the aim of reducing family conflict.
The Government has announced that the changes are due to come into force in the UK on April 6 2022, later than the anticipated date of Autumn this year.
Currently the law requires a divorce petition to provide evidence that the marriage has “irretrievably broken down” based on one of five facts:
- Behaviour of the Respondent;
- Two years separation (with the consent of the Respondent);
- Desertion of two years or more; or,
- Five years separation (no consent required).
All but two of the five facts require the divorcing couple to be separated for two years or more. This can exacerbate tensions and prevent a couple from moving on amicably. For those hoping to progress matters more quickly, the divorce petition requires them to apportion blame, which often increases conflict and hostility at a time that is already very challenging.
It is important to note that the reasons cited in a divorce petition are not reflected in the financial provision that may be ordered and are rarely of any relevance to the child arrangements that may be determined in children act proceedings. There is therefore very little to gain by lodging a fault-based petition, particularly if the divorcing couple needs to work together and co-parent in the years ahead.
The new “no-fault” divorce legislation will bring in the following changes:
1. “Irretrievable breakdown” will remain as the sole ground for divorce, but the 5 facts will be abolished and replaced with a “statement of irretrievable breakdown”.
2. There will be no option to contest a divorce;
3. There will be a new option to file a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process;
4. It will introduce a new minimum time-frame of six months from the date of petition to the final order.
I believe that these changes are long overdue and will be welcomed by clients and practitioners alike. They will simplify the process and help couples to focus on the issues that really matter, i.e. the future arrangements for their children and the division of the financial assets/financial provision.
If you require any advice on a no fault-based divorce, or any aspect of family law, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01482 326666.
Liz Morris is a senior solicitor based in Hull who specialises in family law. Get in touch with the friendly experts at Hamers Solicitors for the very best advice on all aspects of applying for and securing a divorce.
10 June, 2021
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