Originally, the government had planned to implement these changes in autumn 2021, but this has now been delayed. What does this mean?

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms the divorce process. Under the new legislation, the ground for divorce or dissolution remains the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership, but there will be no need to rely on any of the existing ‘facts’ when commencing an application for divorce or dissolution. This means that couples will simply need to prove that the marriage has broken down and cannot be saved.

Under current laws, unless a couple lives separately for at least 2 years they can only get a divorce if one person blames the other for this irretrievable breakdown of their marriage, and this must fall into the category of either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. These blame-based options are two of 5 legally recognised reasons for the breakdown of a marriage under current laws.  This means that unless a couple has been separated for at least 2 years, one person must document examples of the other's behaviour during the marriage and present this as evidence to the court. The court will then decide whether they believe this behaviour resulted in the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Statistics produced by the (ONS) for 2018 show that the fact of behaviour is the most common ground for divorces granted in England and Wales, with 46.1% of all divorces granted relying upon this fact.  The available ‘no fault’ provisions are currently used quite often and certainly more often than those granted upon adultery petitions (10.1%). No-fault will soon be the only way to proceed with divorce applications. However, this is all set to change in April 2022.

The new legislation will:

  • replace the ‘five facts’ with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
  • remove the possibility of contesting the divorce
  • introduce an option for a joint application
  • make sure language is in plain English, for example, changing ‘decree nisi’ to conditional order and ‘decree absolute’ to final order

It is hoped that by removing the need to rely on any fault it will help to reduce conflict between couples who may have been encouraged to rely on a fault-based fact to progress the divorce or dissolution proceedings and allow them to focus on other issues such as financial matters or children.

The implementation date of the Act has been pushed back to April 2022, to ensure that the key developments and amendments to the Court rules, the creation of practice directions and the implementation of system changes to the online service to ensure the reforms are fit for purpose.

Do you need advice on a divorce?

At Holmes Family Law, we understand the breakdown of any relationship is difficult for any couple. Our experienced team is on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to give you the expert divorce advice you need. Call our team on 0191 5009337 or 01670 707338 during office hours or 0191 500 9338 at any other time  As always, Holmes Family Law is also offering a free consultation to victims of domestic abuse. Alternatively, visit Get In Touch to find our range of contact options.

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