Divorce law in England and Wales is changing from the 6th April 2022, with the introduction of no fault divorce. This means that couples will be able to get divorced without one person needing to lay blame on the other. This change will also be applied to civil partnership dissolution.
Here is a breakdown written by Co-op legal services of what the divorce law reforms look like and how no fault divorce will work after these changes have come into effect.
1. Divorce can be granted without one person (spouse) blaming the other
The most important element of no fault divorce is, of course, the removal of fault or blame from the divorce process. Under the new laws, couples will be able to get divorced solely on the basis that the marriage has broken down, without needing to cite one of the 5 reasons for divorce (as is currently required).
This means that if the couple agrees to a divorce and the divorce is amicable or uncontested, there won’t be a requirement for one person to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage.
2. Couples will be able to apply for divorce jointly
Under current laws, one spouse needs to issue divorce proceedings against the other. The person who starts the divorce is called the petitioner and the other person is called the respondent. Under the no fault divorce system, both people will be able to make the application jointly.
3. Divorce terminology will be updated
Some of the wording used in the divorce process has been flagged as outdated, so this is being brought up to date. The person applying for the divorce will be called the applicant, instead of the petitioner. The decree nisi will become the conditional order and the decree absolute will be called the final order.
4. There will be a minimum of 20 weeks between the application and conditional order
A minimum timeframe of 20 weeks is being introduced between the application and the conditional order. This timeframe has been introduced to counter concerns that the reforms will make divorce a quicker and easier option for couples than trying to save their marriage. This ‘period of reflection’ will give couples an opportunity to reflect and work through their differences before committing to a divorce.
There will then be a minimum 6 week period between the conditional order and the final order.
Another option for couples is to enter into a separation agreement, which is a written agreement outlining the terms of the separation. A separation agreement will not end the marriage, but it can enable both people to agree on the terms of the separation.
5. It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce
Under the current system, one person submits a divorce petition, citing their spouse’s behaviour or a period of separation as the reason for the divorce, and their spouse can contest this. This is exactly what has happened in the high-profile divorce case of Tini and Hugh Owens. Under the new no fault divorce system, this option will be removed.
Current divorce process in England and Wales
In order to be granted a divorce in England or Wales, the court needs to be convinced that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, to a point where it can’t 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.
“The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force on 6th April 2022 in so far as it is not already in force.”
The gov.uk website has various help and guidance on Crime, justice and the law.
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