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Divorce, Dissolution And Separation Act 2020 - An End To The Old Fault-Based Divorce System!

20 July

Divorce, Dissolution And Separation Act 2020 - An End To The Old Fault-Based Divorce System!

A relationship breakup can be very difficult and distressing.

When starting divorce proceedings not only do spouses have to deal with the complex divorce process but also prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably using one or more of the five facts.

The current system not only delays the process but quite often works against any potential prospect of reconciliation of the parties as by apportioning blame to one spouse leads to undermining the relationship between the parties. Furthermore, conflict between parents can leave a mark on children and can have a negative impact on their future.

However, this is all set to change with the introduction of a new ‘no-fault divorce’ process (Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020) which is set to become available for spouses in the UK on 6th April 2022, although originally it was due to be implemented in the autumn of 2021. 

What is the current divorce system?

Currently, under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, there is one reason for a divorce which is irretrievable breakdown of marriage and this needs to be proved using one of five facts.

Three of these grounds suggest that the divorce will start immediately. These include adultery, unreasonable behaviour, or desertion. Parties can also get a divorce provided that their relationship ended, and they have lived apart for either two years (with the consent of both partners) or five years, if one of the parties does not consent to a divorce. 

What is no-fault divorce?

The introduction of the new system leaves irretrievable breakdown of a relationship as the only reason for divorce and puts an end to the principle that partners shift the blame on each other during divorce proceedings.

The new procedure has been simplified and the divorce application can be made online. Under the new law, the process should be completed within six months from the date of issuing the application.  The previous terminology has been modernised, but the divorce process will still take place in two stages: court approval and the subsequent issuance of a divorce certificate.

Once the application for what will be known a "Divorce Order" has been issued, the applicant can then apply for a “Conditional Order” of divorce (replacing Decree Nisi) until 20 weeks have elapsed. This period will give people enough time to consider their decision and to withdraw their application if they wish to do so. The parties will only need to send a statement to the court and neither of them will have to rely on the old five facts. The applicant will then have to apply for a "Final Order" of divorce (replacing Decree Absolute) and confirm once again of their intention to divorce.

The new rules will enable both parties to issue the application for divorce either jointly or only by one of the parties.  It also removes the requirement for the respondent to defend or a possibility of contesting a divorce preventing the other party from interfering with the consideration of the application.

These changes will also apply to parties who wish to end their civil partnership.

Although the new system will enable many spouses to issue divorce applications independently, we would strongly recommend consulting a solicitor who would assist you with all other matters such as finances and help you avoid any stress during the whole process.

At Bell and Buxton we like to ensure that the best legal advice is available and accessible for all, so we provide a free half hour’s initial appointment with a member of the expert team, to ensure that you get the advice you need. Should you choose to instruct us we offer an affordable fixed fee services and flexible appointments to suit you.

To arrange an appointment or for more information please contact our Family Team on 0114 249 5969.