The New Divorce Law from 6th April 2022

Rebecca Hudson, 2nd August, 2021

Rebecca Hudson, a Paralegal in our Family department looks at how the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will change the future of divorces.

For many years campaigns have taken place in an attempt to reform the way in which divorces can be obtained. Much to the satisfaction of many, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill gained the Royal Assent on 26 June 2020, but what does it actually mean for individuals wanting to divorce and how will it change the process moving forward?

How can a divorce currently be obtained?

As the law currently stands, there is only one ground in which a divorce can be obtained and that is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. With the new reform, this ground will still very much apply, however, the process of evidencing the break down will not. Current law requires the Petitioner in the divorce (the party applying for the divorce) to evidence the irretrievable breakdown by citing one of five facts. These are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion
  4. 2 years separation (with consent)
  5. 5 years separation

This means that three out of the five facts currently require the Petitioner to have been separated from the Respondent (the party whom the divorce is made against) for a minimum of 2 years. If they have not, they are left with two options of adultery and unreasonable behaviour, thereby directly placing “blame” on the Respondent, which can often result in the divorce becoming acrimonious and hostile from the very early stages.

Whilst rare in practice, current law allows the Respondent to defend the divorce, as happened in the high profile case of Owens v Owens [2018]. However, even the new reform will make changes to this.

How will the new law work?

The biggest change to come from the reforms is the removal of the need to evidence the irretrievable break down. Whilst irretrievable break down of the marriage will still remain the only ground to pursue a divorce, the new process will only require one party to provide the court with a statement confirming that they regard the marriage as having broken down irretrievably, which the court will treat as evidence.

The new process will be more inclusive, as it will even allow both spouses to apply for the divorce under a joint application, which will remove the hostility and acrimony which occurs all too often.

Other changes will include new terminology. For example, the Decree Nisi will become the “Conditional Order” and the Decree Absolute will become the “Final Order”. The new process will no longer refer to the party applying as the Petitioner, but instead, as the Applicant.

As well as these changes, the new law will also impose a minimum 20 week period between the divorce application being issued and the granting of the Conditional Order. This is known as the “period of reflection”, as it allows the parties sufficient time to contemplate their decision, which may even result in reconciliation. The 6 weeks and 1 day period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order will remain in place.

Unlike Owens v Owens [2018], the new reform will not provide the Respondent with the ability to contest the divorce, which will provide the Applicant with the reassurance that they will not be forced into expensive and prolonged court proceedings to deal with a defended divorce by their spouse. It has been confirmed that no fault divorces will be available to individuals from 6th April 2022.

Get in touch today to find out how these changes may affect your situation...

Contact Rebecca Hudson on 01482 324252 or via email: You can find out more about of Family Law services and other colleagues in this team by clicking or tapping here: Gosschalks Family Law Service.

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