The law on no fault divorce in England and Wales is changing significantly in Spring 2022 with the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.
The new legislation will remove the requirement to show any fault or wrongdoing in divorce or dissolution proceedings. It is expected to come into force on 6 April 2022.
The aim of the new legislation is to simplify the procedure and more importantly, to reduce unnecessary conflict for separating couples at an already difficult time in their lives.
What are the key changes?
- There will no longer be a requirement to rely on one of the five facts to show irretrievable breakdown. Instead, separating couples will be required to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
- The legislation introduces the possibility of joint applications where both parties agree their relationship has irretrievably broken down.
- The new legislation also removes the ability for one spouse to contest a divorce or dissolution.
- Terminology will be simplified – the first stage of a divorce will be known as a Conditional Order and second stage as a Final Order.
- There will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from start of the proceedings to making a Conditional Order. There will then be a second period of 6 weeks between the Conditional Order and Final Order.
In practice, the change in law will allow couples who would have once relied on two years separation with consent or five years separation, to proceed without having to rely on a fault-based fact such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
Many family practitioners welcome this long awaited change and are hopeful that it will decrease hostility between separating couples. This in turn should allow more focus on the practical arrangements for their new chapter including reaching an agreement for a financial settlement and/or child arrangements.
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