The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will reform the divorce process in England and Wales introducing a new era of no-fault divorces.
The purpose of the new divorce laws is to reduce conflict allowing spouses to focus on more important issues like children, property and finances. The new laws will come into force on the 6th April 2022 and are a welcome change.
What is the current divorce procedure?
The present divorce system in England and Wales requires one spouse to begin the process of filing for a divorce. The spouse who is initiating divorce proceedings must prove to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and that one of the five facts (behaviour, adultery, five years separation, two years separation, consent or desertion) are relevant to the marriage breakdown. The present law requires an element of blame to be placed upon the receiving party of the application.
When the receiving party receives the application, they must send an acknowledgment to the court and indicate whether they intend to defend the divorce or consent to it.
If the receiving party consents to the divorce the spouse initiating proceedings can then apply for a Decree Nisi. This is the first stage of the divorce.
The Decree Absolute can then be applied for 6 weeks after the Decree Nisi has been granted. Once Decree Absolute is announced the parties will officially be divorced.
What will the new law change?
1) No need to rely on one of the five facts
The traditional 5 facts will be replaced with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. This will mean that married couples wanting to divorce will not need to apportion blame on the other removing the need to point a finger at the other spouse.
2) Remove the possibility of contesting divorce
The present system allows for the divorce to be contested. One spouse will submit the divorce application containing details of their spouse’s behaviour as the reason for the divorce and their spouse can contest this. The option to contest will be removed under the new no fault divorce system.
3) Option for spouse to make a joint application
Divorce proceedings will no longer need to be initiated by one partner alone. If a couple are both agreeable to obtaining a divorce the new law allows them to make a joint application.
4) Divorce terminology will be updated
Present divorce laws use fairly outdated English language. The person applying for the divorce will be called the applicant instead of a petitioner. The Decree Nisi will be known as the Conditional Order and Decree Absolute will be known as the Final Order.
5) Minimum timeframe
There will be a minimum time frame of 20 weeks between the submitting of the divorce application and the conditional order. This timeframe has been introduced to ensure that the new divorce system will become an easier option for married couples other than making attempts to save their marriage. This time frame will provide couples with a period of reflection giving them the opportunity to work through any issues before committing to a divorce.
There will be a minimum 6-week period between the conditional order and the final order.
If you would like to understand more about how the current or upcoming divorce laws may impact you, or if you require practical, helpful advice and support with regards to divorce, please do make an appointment with our Sophie Parry or Gwyndaf Pari.