Are Divorce Laws Changing?

9 Jul 2021

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A divorce is not an easy thing to plan. Not only is it incredibly tough emotionally, it can also be a complicated process – but you don’t have to go through it on your own.

As divorce laws change in the UK, we have put together a handful of key developments that you can expect from divorce proceedings that are due to be implemented shortly.

Key Changes To Application For Divorce

The Government’s key policy aim behind the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is to reduce conflict within the legal process of divorce, dissolution and separation. The rationale behind this Act is to promote individual autonomy, reduce the length, cost and hardship of divorce proceedings, and conflict which can be particularly damaging for children.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has introduced a ‘no fault divorce’ and is expected to be put in place in April 2022.

One of the key benefits of a no-fault divorce is that both parties are not required to raise allegations about their spouse. This should help to reduce family conflict during the divorce process, allowing both parties to sort out finances and agree on arrangements for the children in a more amicable way.

This act has replaced the requirement to provide evidence with a ‘fact’ to prove an irretrievable marriage breakdown. It also removes the possibility of one of the spouses contesting a divorce, as this statement will suffice as conclusive evidence to show that the relationship is unrepairable.

One of the main reasons behind these new laws is to remove the element of ‘blame’ in divorce settlements. Emotions run high and both parties involved end up making needless allegations against one another.

woman taking her wedding ring off after a divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution, Separation Act 2020 has also updated the terminology used when applying for a divorce which is as follows:

  • The petition for divorce is now called the application for a Divorce Order;
  • The Petitioner is now called the Applicant;
  • The Decree Nisi is now called the Conditional Order;
  • The Decree Absolute is now called the Final Order.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will introduce a minimum period of 20 weeks from the making of an application for a Divorce Order to the making of an application for a Conditional Order. The existing minimum 6-week period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order still remains.  This allows for enough time to be available to give couples a better opportunity to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable.

These laws will hopefully remove the antagonism that comes with a divorce. As a result, this will allow families to move on with their lives and reduce the conflict and damaging effect a parental divorce can have on children.

What If I Want to Divorce Now?

With the new ‘no fault divorce’ law expected to become active in April 2022, this may come too late for some couples. Therefore, it is important to know what the current laws are if you are planning on proceeding with a divorce before then.

Under the current and soon to be previous law, there is one ground for divorce – the marriage has irretrievably broken down. One spouse must rely upon one of the five facts to prove that there has been an irretrievable breakdown which is as follows:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Separation for 2 years with consent
  • Separation for 5 years

The fact of adultery and two-year separation with consent also have the additional hurdle that the other spouse must give their written consent by confirming their agreement in their response to the petition.

The key difference with the new ‘no fault divorce’ law is that one or both spouses can state that their marital relationship has become irretrievable and that statement will now act as conclusive evidence that the relationship has broken down – the Court must then make a Divorce Order.

close up of a hand loosely holding a wedding ring following a no fault divorce

Getting The Help You Need

Divorce is a very serious matter. Hepburn Delaney understands the difficult and sensitive nature of a Divorce and we’re here to guide you through the process. Contact us on 01442 218090 to book a consultation today. Alternatively, you can send an email to info@hepburndelaney.co.uk for any queries you may have; we are more than happy to help.