The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 became law on 6 April 2022. The Act is the biggest change to our Divorce laws for over 50 years and is referred to as the ‘no-fault’ divorce law, and aims to reduce hostility between couples.
The new law removes any need for either party to blame the other, for example, by alleging adultery or unreasonable behaviour, allowing individuals to simply state that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. The Act applies to the dissolution of civil partnerships as well as to divorce and makes the process identical for both.
No need to give a reason that your relationship has broken down
Under the new Act, either party can apply for a divorce by telling the court that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. Before, it was necessary to provide evidence of this by alleging one of five facts, namely adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, living apart for two years with both parties’ consent to the divorce or living apart for five years where one party does not agree to the divorce.
These former rules meant that it was not always easy for an individual to obtain a divorce if the other party objected, leaving some people trapped in marriages for up to five years.
The new rules should make it easier to obtain a divorce and also gives a couple the option of applying together, making a joint statement that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. Application for a divorce can be made online.
The terms decree nisi and decree absolute will be changed to conditional order and final order. The conditional order is the interim order giving notice that a divorce is impending. The person requesting the divorce will be called the applicant instead of the petitioner.
Period of reflection
There will be a requirement for the parties to wait for 20 weeks after applying for a divorce before the conditional order is made. This is intended to allow those involved to consider whether divorce is the only option and to ensure that divorce does not become too quick and easy to obtain.
A final order can be requested no earlier than six weeks after the conditional order is made.
No option to contest a divorce
Along with the abolition of the five facts showing irretrievably breakdown, it is no longer possible to contest a divorce. You are however able to contest jurisdictional issues though.
Benefits of the new divorce Act
It is hoped that the new law will reduce conflict during divorce and prevent a couple’s relationship from deteriorating further. Emphasis is increasingly being put on resolving matters amicably and solicitors are focused on helping to put agreements in place for issues such as financial matters and arrangements for children without the need for court intervention and with greater emphasis on Mediation and other forms of our of court dispute resolution.
The new law will also mean that should someone want to leave their marriage, they cannot be prevented from doing so.
Finalising other arrangements
It should be noted that it is still important to deal with related matters such as property, financial affairs and arrangements for children. It is generally recommended that these be settled before a divorce is finalised. In any event, it is crucial to ensure you have a binding order of the court in respect of finances. This is the reason why the courts have introduced the 20 week period before you can apply for the Conditional order so as to give you time to address such issues. Without this, it could be open to your former partner to come back to you long in the future to make a claim against you. Even if you are able to agree on how to deal with financial matters amicably, you should ensure that this is put into a consent order by the court so that it is legally binding.
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