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What is the major change to the divorce process?

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Campaigners have been asking for a no-fault divorce and 2022 is the year that will see a landmark change to the Divorce process which will make this reality. This blog aims to set out the key points ahead of the launch of this new piece of legislation on the 6th April 2022.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act will come into force on 6th April 2022. The bill first introducing this Act was placed before the house on 7th January 2020 and is seen as a long overdue overhaul of the Divorce Process.

The current process essentially falls under 2 areas: conduct and separation.

A petitioner needs to show that they have been separated for a specified period of their ex-partner’s conduct is so severe that the marriage has been irretrievably broken down.

This is not a subjective test and the decision as to whether there are sufficient grounds lay with the judge themselves. There is also an ability for the other party to defend a Petition meaning Petitions can take a lot longer to the court to reach a conclusion on. In turn, this can mean on some couples remain trapped in a marriage when they don’t want to be.

The new ground for divorce is simply an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, with neither blame nor evidence of separation needed to be provided. It will virtually eliminate contested divorce with the only divorces that can be defended are not with regards to the grounds but if there is:

  • A dispute over jurisdiction such as neither party living in England or Wales,
  • The marriage is invalid,
  • The marriage has been ended outside of England and Wales and,
  • Procedural Compliance.

In reality this makes a Petition (to be known as an Application) to be un-defendable.

It also allows for the very first time for couples to lodge joint applications with the court meaning that parties can collaborate on their divorce application.

The process will have a minimum waiting period of 20 weeks before a Conditional Order (previously known as a Decree Nisi) can be applied for. The Applicant will then have to wait a further 6 weeks before applying for a Final Order (previously known as a Decree Absolute).

The process is also the same for the Dissolution of Civil Partnerships.

Couples still wanting to remain married but wish to have a Judicial Separation can again apply to the Court for an order in the same way as before. However similarly to Divorce, joint applications can also be made.

This will not mean a shortening of the process, but by eliminating conflict it should make the process much more amicable moving forward.

The changes being brought in are likely to start working towards conciliatory separation, which is turn may make financial and children’s issues at the point of separation, easier to resolve.

Darren White is a Solicitor within our Family Law department. If you require further information on the divorce law changes, please contacted Darren White at darren.white@fdrlaw.co.uk or call him on 01925 230000.