‘No fault’ – based divorce is coming soon.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FP1C4433LI.jpg
Michelle Bowyer, Associate Solicitor – Family Team

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is almost upon us with implementation date set for 6th April 2022. Here is a brief explanation of the practical consequences of this seismic change in matrimonial proceedings:

  • Removal of the need to rely upon conduct or separation and replaced with a statement of irretrievable breakdown. Client’s no longer having to place blame upon their spouse for the cause of the marriage breakdown.
  • Removal of the ability to defend a divorce.
  • Allowing a joint application for a divorce.
  • Introduction of a new minimum timeframe of 20 weeks between date of issue of application and when you can apply for a conditional order (formerly known as a decree nisi)
  • You must wait 6 weeks from date of conditional order before you can apply for the final order (formerly known as a decree absolute).
  • Updated terminology: Petition will become “application”, petitioner will become “applicant”, and if a joint application, the parties will be identified as “applicant 1” and “applicant 2”.
  • All applications must be submitted online. Any paper applications submitted after 31st March will be returned and no applications can be issued between 4.00pm on 31st March and 10.00am on 6th April whilst the court digital system is being updated.
  • The new form will allow a sole applicant or joint applicants.
  • The 20-week period after date of issue is designed for “reflection” and can be utilised to discuss financial arrangements or arrangements for the children.
  • As with the current law, we may well advise clients to refrain from pursuing application for the final order until financial arrangements have been agreed upon and documented (as in some circumstances it may be prejudicial to do so).

If clients require advice or assistance with regard to their marriage breakdown, or in relation to the financial consequences of their separation, the family law team at Bevirs Law is able to assist.

The end of fault-based divorce is in sight.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is FP1C4433LI.jpg
Michelle Bowyer, Associate Solicitor – Family Team

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received Royal assent on 26th June 2020, and is due to be implemented on 6th April 2022.

As a Resolution accredited specialist, I actively participated in the campaign for this change in law, and I have previously blogged about the detrimental impact on parties having to place blame upon their spouse before they can dissolve their marriage.  This can impact on both the parties, and their children as the “mud-slinging” can cut deep and result in irreparable rifts.

Removing blame will help parents to avoid unnecessary acrimony at a time when they will also be considering future care arrangements for their children. It will also make it more likely that the parties will be able to resolve the associated financial aspects of their divorce on an amicable basis.

The current requirement to establish fault or to establish a period of separation will be replaced with the option of one spouse or the couple making a statement of irretrievable breakdown and will dispense with the need for one party to place blame on the other for the breakdown of the marriage.

The new law will require couples to wait a minimum of 6 months from date of application to date of divorce.  This timeframe is intended to allow parties to reflect and turn back, if that is their wish, or, if a reconciliation is not desirable, the time can be used to negotiate division of assets and/or discuss how best to share care of their children.

Until implementation of the new Act, if parties have not been living apart or neither has committed adultery (or is willing to admit to doing so), citing allegations of behaviour remains the only way to satisfy the court that their marriage has irretrievably broken down.  Irretrievable breakdown will remain the only ground for divorce but with parties having the option to file a statement of irrevocable breakdown, as opposed to proving it by behaviour, adultery, or physical separation.

Clients may wish to wait until the law change or, depending on their personal circumstances, they may consider it intolerable to do so. The family law team at Bevirs can assist you in considering all options together with the consequences of divorce, such as the division of assets and making arrangements for the care of your children.

By Michelle Bowyer, Associate Solicitor – Family Team