Today (6 April 2022) the much-anticipated changes to divorce legislation come into force, introducing no fault divorces in England and Wales.
David Berridge, Head of Family Law at Bray & Bray explains the changes and what they mean for couples who want to end their marriage.
No fault divorce
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms the legal requirements and process for divorce, and is the biggest update to England’s divorce law in nearly 50 years.
The Act will end the divorce ‘blame game’ meaning couples who want an amicable split can do so without having to provide a reason for permanently separating.
It aims to reduce the potential for conflict amongst divorcing couples by removing the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse and allowing couples to end their marriage jointly.
The divorce application can be made online, and once submitted, there is a minimum overall time frame of 26 weeks (6 months) from the date of the application to the earliest date for the final divorce order. This change aims to provide couples with the opportunity to reflect on or reconsider their decision to divorce. Where divorce is inevitable, it enables couples to work together and plan for the future.
Under the new legislation, it will no longer be possible to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds including jurisdiction.
Previous grounds for divorce
Prior to 6 April 2022, those applying for a divorce needed to prove their marriage had broken down irretrievably, by giving one or more of the following reasons (also known as ‘facts’):
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for at least two years
- Separation for at least two years, with consent of both parties
- Separation for at least five years, even if one party disagrees
The new law removes the need to establish any of these five facts and thus promotes a non-confrontational approach regarding the divorce.
Advantages of no fault divorce
No fault divorce not only removes the requirement of blame but also allows both parties to make a joint application for divorce, should they so wish.
The reforms are intended to prevent unnecessary conflict associated with a divorce and reduce the distress of and impact on any children involved in the process. The 26-week minimum period to obtain a divorce should also allow couples to decide on appropriate arrangements for their children that work for everyone.
Moreover, by reducing the likelihood of long, drawn-out divorce proceedings, the new law should also free up valuable court time.
Whilst no-fault divorce does make divorce more accessible, it is a long-awaited reform that should make the process much more harmonious.
Get in touch
If you’d like to discuss the new changes to the divorce process, the experienced family law team at Bray & Bray is happy to help.
For specialist advice and guidance, please get in touch with us here.