The long awaited ‘Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020’ comes into effect on 6th April 2022. It was first introduced in Parliament in January 2020 and aims to modernise the divorce legislation, by introducing the ‘no fault’ divorce.
Under the current legislation, there is a need to provide reasons and evidence as to why the relationship has irretrievably broken down. This can be shown through one of five ways; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation for two years and the other party consents or separation for five years if the other party doesn’t consent. At the moment, particulars of behaviour need to be provided to support one of the five reasons; these particulars tend to blame one party and thus the divorce is essentially blamed on this party.
At present, only one party can petition for the divorce. This party is known as the petitioner and the other party is known as the respondent. Currently, the respondent has the option to defend the divorce if they believe the relationship hasn’t irretrievably broken down.
The current process lasts roughly 4 – 6 months but can last longer if parties disagree on how to split finances. Presently, the decree nisi can not be made absolute till at least 6 weeks after the decree nisi is granted.
The main change under the new legislation is that instead of having to choose from five reasons for the divorce, now there is only one – that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. There is no evidence required to prove this to the court, instead there is just a box to tick that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. This means that neither party is blamed for the divorce and thus the nickname of the ‘no fault’ divorce.
Another welcome change is that now parties will be able to jointly petition the court. Therefore, there is the possibility to have two applicants (previously known as the petitioner) and no respondent. Furthermore, any respondents will struggle to defend the divorce application as the only grounds for defending a divorce application will be jurisdiction, validity or the subsistence of the marriage.
Finally, the timeline of the divorce process is also changing. The process will now last for a minimum of six months to allow the parties plenty of time for reflection. The new legislation states that there is to be a 20 week period between issuing the application and application for a conditional order (previously known as decree nisi).
If parties wish to issue proceedings under the current legislation, they application must be issued before 4pm on 31st March 2022. The online portal for the new divorce process will open on 6th April and parties will be able to issue proceedings under the new legislation from this date. However, urgent applications will continue to be accepted if received by post or email before 4pm on 5th April 2022.
If you would like further information or legal advice in relation to divorce, please contact us on 0121 355 0011, by email to Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com or through the ‘make an enquiry’ option on belllax.com.