End of the blame game.
Helen Hunt, Associate Solicitor
The announcement that sweeping changes to divorce laws will come into force in April 2022 is welcome news for couples who wish to divorce. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will allow couple to divorce without having to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage.
Under the present divorce laws, which date back to 1973, couples who wish to divorce within the first two years of their separation, can only do so if one party makes an allegation of adultery or unreasonable behavior against the other. This presents an insurmountable obstacle for those couples who acknowledge that they have simply grown apart and can often serve to pit the separating couple against one another at an already difficult time. Irreparable damage can be caused to relations, which in turn can create a myriad of difficulties in reaching agreement as to the future arrangements for children and division of assets.
Under the new law, it will be necessary only for a spouse (or the couple if applying jointly) to make a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The option for one spouse to defend the proceedings and therefore deny their partner a divorce, will also be removed.
In order to allow the couple time to reflect as to whether a reconciliation can be achieved and, if not, to consider the arrangements for the children and financial issues, there must be a minimum of 20 weeks between the start of the proceedings and the conditional order (at present, this is decree nisi).
There has also been a modernisation of the terminology – for example, proceedings will be concluded by a final order rather than a decree absolute – in an effort make the process more user-friendly.
Whilst it had been hoped that these changes could be implemented as early as this autumn, there is at least certainty that as from April 2022 the law can better reflect the needs of separating couples by removing the blame from the divorce process.
Whether you are contemplating divorce or separation or seeking guidance on arrangements for children, or you are moving into a home with a partner for the first time, or looking for a non-confrontational approach to resolving family disputes, our specialist lawyers will provide you with sound advice that will give you peace of mind concerning the legal complexities of family law.