No-Fault Divorce is finally here

The long-awaited reform to Family Law is finally here with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, coming into force as of today, 6 April 2022.

This is the biggest reform of divorce law in 50 years and aims to provide a more collaborative approach to couples who are separating.

The new Act substitutes the previous process under S.1 Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and S.44 Civil Partnership Act 2004 and removes the need to place blame on one party in order to qualify for divorce. The new regime will be a welcome change to both practitioners and couples as the unnecessary conflict and animosity created from the outset by placing fault upon one party will be reduced, and it will allow for a more amicable separation benefiting both parties and any children.

The sole ground for divorce will be that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’. You will no longer have to provide proof, but instead the Applicant will need to provide a signed statement confirming that the marriage has come to an end. This will then be taken as conclusive evidence by the Court and the Judge must then make an order.

The Act also introduces joint applications where both parties agree to end the marriage. You are still able to apply on a sole basis, but there will no longer be an ability for the spouse to contest the divorce. In addition, where the application begins on a joint basis, but one party is showing resistance, then the application can be converted to a sole application to enable it to proceed; meaning one party will not be able to prevent the divorce from being finalised.

However, a new minimum period of 20 weeks between application and Conditional Order (formerly known as the Decree Nisi) will be implemented during which time couples can work towards reconciliation, or deal with the financial and child matters. Once the 20 weeks have passed, then the applicant must give the court confirmation that they wish for the application to continue and then the Court will make the Conditional Order. Couples will then have to wait a further 6 weeks after the Conditional Order before they can apply for a Final Order (formerly known as the Decree Absolute). Before the Final Order will be granted, the court must be satisfied that there is a suitable financial remedy in place.

The new procedure by no means provides for a ‘quickie divorce’ as the court timetable means the divorce will not be finalised for at least 26 weeks from application as a minimum. But it does however allow for more amicable discussions between the parties and appropriate time to deal with all other financial and child matters before their marriage is formally brought to an end.

The new Act places emphasis on parties reaching agreements outside of Court through collaboration which ultimately will reduce both parties costs and avoid potential Court delays. This will be a landmark change in the way divorce operates.

If you would like to speak to one of our family law specialists, please contact us on 020 8290 7341 or 020 8290 0333 to make an appointment.

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