The Government has announced the date for implementation of a radical overhaul of divorce procedure. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will finally be implemented on 6 April 2022.
Current divorce law
Currently, anyone who wants to divorce has to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by proving that one of five facts exists. Those who have not lived apart for at least two years have to prove that their spouse has committed adultery or behaved unreasonably – with details required.
Many involved with the family courts have argued that this gives rise to unnecessary animosity right at the beginning of proceedings. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on a couple's ability to negotiate how their financial assets should be divided or their children cared for.
New no-fault divorce law
After a delay, in part because of the health pandemic but also as a result of the need to make changes to the court’s IT system, the new law will now come into effect on 6 April next year, rather than as had been hoped at the end of this year. For those currently experiencing the significant difficulties that have arisen with the court’s IT system, one can but hope that the system is fit for purpose when the starting gun is fired next year.
As of April 2022, either party to a marriage will be able to apply for a divorce on the basis that they believe that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. No further evidence will be required. A 20 week period of reflection will be built into the process. This will allow both parties to explore whether their differences can be resolved, or if they wish to press on to obtaining a divorce.
Whilst this period of reflection may appear lengthy, it is often the case that even now parties delay applying for decree absolute (which brings the marriage to an end) until financial issues have been determined. This is so they can preserve rights in relation to pension and other benefits.
Some have expressed concern that the new law will devalue marriage and make divorce too easy. However, many hope that it will allow those whose marriages have come to an end to deal with issues with respect to division of their assets and care of the children in a more constructive way. This will remove the necessity to lay the blame at the door of one party at the outset.
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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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