A new system of “no fault” divorce will at last come into effect on 6th April 2022. This is something that family lawyers have lobbied for over a long period of time. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received the royal assent on 25th June 2020 and we had expected it to be introduced this autumn. Unfortunately, its introduction has been delayed but at least we now know with certainty that the law will change in April of next year.
Our member and family solicitor and mediator, Joanna Toloczko considers the changes to the law.
The current law
At the moment there is only one ground for divorce, which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. A person wishing to divorce must rely on one of the following facts:-
- The other party’s adultery
- The other party’s unreasonable behaviour
- Two years’ desertion
- Two years’ separation with consent
- Five years’ separation
What was the problem?
Problems arose where a couple was keen to bring their marriage to an end but they hadn’t been separated for a minimum period of two years. In these circumstances one of them would have no alternative but to issue proceedings on the basis of the other party’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
Very often this would mean that a couple who had managed to separate amicably ended up falling out because of the allegations made in the divorce petition. Consequently, this had a detrimental effect on the discussions about the arrangements for the children and property and financial matters.
It created unnecessary anxiety and animosity for divorcing couples.
The new rules
From 6th April 2022 there will no longer be a requirement to demonstrate wrongdoing on the part of one of the parties in order to secure a divorce.
The sole ground for divorce of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage will remain.
For the first time couples will be able to make a joint application if they both agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. One party may make a sole application if the other party doesn’t agree.
It will no longer be possible to contest divorce proceedings.
An application for divorce must be accompanied by a statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage. The court dealing with the application must take the statement as conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and make a divorce order. This will initially be a conditional order but a party may apply for a final order once a period of six weeks has passed.
The court may only make a conditional order if the applicant/s have confirmed that they wish the application to continue and they cannot do that before the end of a period of 20 weeks from the date of the application.
The new law should reduce hostility and animosity in future divorce proceedings.