Divorce laws have been revised for the first time in 50 years with the ‘blame game’ aspect removed for couples who wish to split amicably. Couples will now be able to start divorce proceedings without having to assign blame for the breakdown of their marriage, instead stating that there was ‘no fault’ on behalf of each party.
Welcomed by divorce solicitors, the change has been designed to allow couples to move forward, secure the best outcomes and eliminate unnecessary conflict and tension. Previously, unless adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour could be proven, a divorce without the agreement of a spouse would only be granted after living separately for five years (this was two years with an agreement).
No fault divorce – what’s changed for couples?
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms the divorce process to remove the concept of fault – the act was passed in June 2020 and came into force on 6 April 2022.
From 6 April, the new legislation:
- Replaces the ‘five grounds’ and allows couples to divorce without assigning fault.
- Removes the possibility of contesting the divorce.
- Introduces an option for a joint application.
- Makes sure language is in plain English (for example, changing ‘decree nisi’ to ‘conditional order’ and ‘decree absolute’ to ‘final order’).
These changes apply to both marriage and the dissolution of civil partnerships.
What was behind the change?
For many years now, many divorce solicitors felt that the law was out of date, creating unnecessary issues for couples who were seeking an amicable divorce.
When the Act was passed in 2020, Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, said that the new laws are designed to ‘stop divorcing couples having to make unnecessary allegations against one another and instead help them focus on separating amicably’, later adding ‘by sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives’[i].
How will the new law change divorce proceedings?
Essentially, the new law removes the unnecessary need for someone to ‘take the blame’ for what is an amicable spilt – which should make the process much quicker. The new laws mean that instead of one party taking the blame, the couple can cite an ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the sole ground for seeking a divorce.
This can be done by making a joint or individual statement – each spouse will be able to provide a statement saying the marriage has broken down without having to provide evidence about bad behaviour.
The application for divorce can be made online, meaning that any postal delays can be avoided – there is also no requirement for the respondent to defend or to cross apply for a divorce, further quickening the process.
When the application has been made, the applicant will have to wait until 20 weeks have elapsed from when the respondent is served with the application, to apply for a conditional order. This period is designed for both parties to ruminate on their decision. The applicant can then apply for a divorce or dissolution final order after six weeks have elapsed from the date the conditional order was made (unless they are in the process of resolving financial matters).
Have any questions about divorce law? Get in touch with our expert divorce solicitors
If you are going through a divorce, it is important to have an experienced legal team that will guide your every step. At Rowberry’s, our clients will work with someone who understands what they need during this difficult period of life, providing sensitive handling while also being empathetic towards others' feelings.
Our specialist team are vastly experienced in all aspects of family law and will support and guide you through important decisions with realistic advice tailored to your individual circumstances.
So, if you have any questions about the change in divorce law, or on any aspect of divorce in general, our friendly team are on hand to help. Do not hesitate to give us a call today on 01344 959166