What will the introduction of no-fault divorce mean?

In April 2022, the new ‘no-fault divorce’ law will come into force, removing the need for couples to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage.

The new law will apply to both divorce and civil partnership dissolution and is intended to help promote a more constructive approach to the ending of a relationship.

Reforming divorce law

In order to obtain a divorce, a couple currently needs to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. There are currently five ways in which this can be demonstrated to the court, as follows:

  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Adultery (this option is not available in respect of a civil partnership)
  • Separation for a period of at least two years, where both parties consent to the divorce
  • Separation for a period of at least five years, where one party does not consent
  • Desertion for at least two years

The need to allege one of these five facts does not help a couple to deal with their divorce in an amicable way and can cause acrimony.

The divorce law reforms aim to remove this potential for discord from the process and allow couples to separate amicably as far as possible.

The new no-fault divorce law

The new law, to be known as the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, will come into force on 6 April 2022.

There will still be a single ground on which a divorce or dissolution can be obtained, namely the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. However, there will no longer be any need to demonstrate this by proving any of the five facts currently required or citing any particular behaviour.

Instead, an individual will be able to make an application to the court simply stating that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. It will not be open to either party to contest an application for a divorce or dissolution, although other issues remain open to negotiation. Couples can also submit a joint application if they wish. The application can be made online.

Following the application, there will be a period of at least 20 weeks before a Conditional Order will be made by the court. This replaces the decree nisi and is the interim stage of a divorce. Six weeks after the issue of a Conditional Order, application can be made for a Final Order, which is the equivalent of the existing decree absolute and which will end the legal relationship.

Dealing with other issues

It is still crucial that couples deal with other issues, such as arrangements for children and financial arrangements. Generally, it is recommended that agreements should be made before a divorce or dissolution is finalised. An experienced family lawyer will be able to guide you through the process to ensure that each step is dealt with and your interests protected.

If you would like to speak to one of our expert family law solicitors, ring us on 0345 241 3100 or email us at mail@cplaw.co.uk

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