On Monday the Government announced that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, allowing separating couples to divorce without apportioning blame, will come into force on 6th April 2022.
The Act received Royal Assent in June 2020, after more than 30 years of campaigning by Resolution; a community of family justice professionals who work with families and individuals to resolve issues in a constructive way. The new no-fault divorce law was originally due to be implemented in the Autumn of 2021, so the date is later than expected, but 6th April 2022 is now fixed as a matter of Parliamentary record.
So what is current divorce process?
The main piece of legislation dealing with divorce is the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. In order to obtain a divorce you need to prove that the marriage has been broken down irretrievably. This can be proven by relying upon one or more of the following facts:
- "Unreasonable behaviour"
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation
As you will see, three of the facts are based on a period of separation. If this does not apply to your circumstances you must rely upon either adultery or "unreasonable behaviour". Unreasonable behaviour is the ground that is most commonly cited on divorce. Due to the very nature of these facts, the system is fault-based and relies upon one party apportioning blame to the other.
How will no-fault divorce change the system?
Instead of having to apportion blame, couples will be able to simply say that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This can be done jointly or individually. Under the new system, there must be a minimum six-month period between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.
In a response to a parliamentary question, MP Chris Philp said ''The new divorce process will work to reduce conflict, which is especially damaging for children, and will reflect work the Government are undertaking through the Reducing Parental Conflict programme. That programme will build the evidence on what works to reduce harmful levels of parental conflict below the threshold of domestic abuse, working with local areas to help them embed support in their local services for families. We will also use this opportunity to strengthen signposting to family mediation as a means to resolve arrangements for children and the division of assets on divorce.''
Neale Grearson, Partner and Head of the firm's Family Department said''Assuming we can trust the Government to actually deliver, this will be the most radical change in divorce law for nearly 50 years. It will end what has been called the "blame game" and hopefully lead to more amicable solutions following a marriage breakdown. On top of this there is increasing enthusiasm for non court outcomes for children and finances such as mediation and collaborative law. Let's hope the government will deliver on this divorce road-map!'
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*This article is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or other professional advice.