Wednesday 6 April marks a monumental change for couples seeking to divorce with the introduction of the much awaited “no fault divorce”.
From 6 April the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 takes effect which will allow couples to bring their marriage or civil partnership to an end without the need for placing blame on the other party.
Under the old law (Matrimonial Cause Act 1973 or Civil Partnership Act 2004), to obtain a divorce, a party had to prove that the marriage had broken down irretrievably by showing one of five reasons, namely, adultery (not available to use as a reason in dissolution of civil partnership), unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent or a period of five years separation.
So what are the main changes taking effect today?
The most significant and awaited change is the removal of the need for a party to place blame on the other. The sole ground for divorce will still remain the same in that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of marriage or civil partnership, however, you will no longer need to provide the court with a reason as to why the relationship has broken down. This will allow parties to proceed amicably and reduce conflict from the outset.
There will still be the option to make a sole application, however, if both parties are in agreement then they can make a joint application to the court.
There will be at least 26 weeks between the start of the divorce proceedings and obtaining the final order. This includes a 20-week reflective period between the start of proceedings and applying for a conditional order. There also remains the statutory period of 6 weeks and one day before applying for the final order.
The increased timings counter the concerns raised that the “no fault divorce” will allow for a quick and easy route for parties to end their marriage or civil partnership rather than trying to solve any issues and work through the problems. The 20-week reflection period allows time for the parties to reflect before finalising the divorce.
Under the old law the respondent was able to contest or defend the divorce. This was often the case when citing unreasonable behaviour or adultery. There is no longer the option to defend the divorce which will save parties additional legal fees in dealing with a contested divorce.
We believe that the “no fault divorce” is a positive change for most people. Proceeding without animosity should assist parties ability to negotiate a financial settlement. If there are children of the marriage or civil partnership, then a reduce in conflict will help to strengthen couples abilities to co-parent moving forward.
At Pinney Talfourd, our specialist divorce lawyers are members of Resolution, dealing with many matters using a collaborative approach. We want to help our clients to achieve a fair settlement. If you are considering a divorce and want to find out some more information, please contact a member of our family team to book a free initial consultation.
The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Catherine Polli, Partner in the Family Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of April 2022.