On 6th April, radical changes to the law on divorce came into force when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was finally implemented.
Previous divorce law
Previously, anyone seeking a divorce before they had been separated for at least two years had to show that their marriage had irretrievably broken down by proving that their spouse had committed adultery or behaved unreasonably. This frequently caused unnecessary animosity, where one party had to blame the other.
New no-fault divorce law
The new law does away with this blame game and simply requires the person seeking a divorce to state that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. No further evidence is required.
The new law also allows both parties, for the first time, to make a joint application. This means that couples will be able to apply for a divorce together.
How long will the process take?
The process will take a minimum timeframe of six months, being 20 weeks from the date of the application to the Conditional Order (formerly Decree Nisi), and a further six weeks before the Final Order (formerly Decree Absolute) is granted. The 20-week wait is intended to allow parties time to reflect, to ensure that they really want to divorce, and to give time to agree future financial arrangements and any issues relating to children.
In recent years, parties have been encouraged to use mediation and negotiation to settle children and financial matters. At long last, the divorce process has caught up with this way of thinking. This long-overdue change enables couples to divorce without one party being judged to be at fault.
Whilst the divorce process should be more straightforward, it remains essential that those who divorce seek specialist legal advice on how their assets are divided. Without this, one party could lose out significantly.
Always seek legal advice before applying for a Final Order otherwise rights, particularly to pension benefits, could be lost without appropriate arrangements having been put in place.
We're here for you
We are here to assist you every step of the way. We have experienced, professional and sympathetic family lawyers who can advise you on all aspects of relationship breakdown. This includes divorce, separation and the resolution of financial and children matters. For more information, please contact our Family Law Team who would be happy to advise you.
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[Originally published 23 March 2022; updated 6 April 2022]