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Insight | For Individuals

New ‘no-fault’ divorce law takes effect

Divorce seperation 1787156570

The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (the Act) becomes law on 6 April 2022.

The new divorce law is a welcome change to existing legislation that has been criticised for requiring one party in a divorce to blame the other for the breakdown of their marriage.

Often referred to as the ‘no-fault’ divorce law, the new Act allows couples to end their marriage or civil partnership simply on the basis that their relationship has irretrievably broken down.

Changes to the existing law

The law currently requires one party to allege one of five facts when asking for a divorce: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, separation for five years (or two years when both parties consent) or desertion.

The new law will allow either party to simply state that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. In addition, the option now exists for both parties to make the application together.

A waiting period of 20 weeks between the application and finalisation of the divorce has been introduced to give couples a period of reflection.

It will no longer be possible for one party to contest an application for divorce.

The language used has been simplified, with the terms decree nisi and decree absolute replaced with conditional order and final order.

Benefits of the new divorce and dissolution legislation

It is hoped that removing the need for one party to blame the other and allowing a couple to make a joint application to the courts will reduce conflict during a divorce or dissolution. The legal system encourages couples to resolve matters amicably between themselves wherever possible, with the assistance of family lawyers and, where necessary mediators.

Making the divorce process less contentious is intended to help couples negotiate solutions more amicably in respect of other issues, such as division of property, making financial arrangements and caring for children.

Eliminating the option of contesting a divorce or dissolution will prevent someone from having to remain married when they no longer want to be.

The new, simpler divorce process is welcome, but it should be noted that it is still important to resolve other issues when dealing with the ending of a relationship, including putting a binding financial agreement in place and making arrangements for children.

It is always recommended that you seek legal advice when ending a marriage or civil partnership and before entering into any agreements in respect of property, finances and children.

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