After several delays, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is now due to be implemented on 6 April 2022, introducing the no-fault divorce. Hannah Pike, a solicitor from Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team, looks at the key changes which will take effect from April 2022.
When applying for a divorce there is a requirement to establish one of five facts to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down (for example, due to the other party’s adultery or behaviour, or based on the fact that the parties have lived separately for at least two years).
The no-fault divorce process removes the requirement to establish one of these facts, which essentially removes the blame element from a divorce application.
From April 2022, a couple will be able to submit a joint application for a divorce relying on the sole ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. When submitting the application, the couple will simply be required to sign an accompanying statement to confirm that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
It will also still be possible to submit a sole application, which would be accompanied by a statement from the sole applicant. This will enable one party to issue a no-fault petition, if they feel that the relationship has come to an end but they do not want to cite the fault of the other party as the reason for the relationship ending.
The no-fault divorce application cannot be contested, even if the application has been made by a sole applicant. The court must make a divorce order provided that a proper application has been issued.
The Act introduces a ‘cooling-off’ period of a minimum of twenty weeks from the start of divorce proceedings, to provide the applicant(s) time to reflect on their decision to apply for a divorce.
After the twenty-week period, the applicant(s) will need to provide further confirmation to the court that they want to proceed and apply for a ‘conditional order’.
Once an application for a conditional order has been made, a further six weeks must pass before the conditional order can be made final. The final order is required to legally end the marriage. Therefore, it will take at least six months to complete the no fault divorce process.
Couples opting to wait for the no-fault divorce legislation to be implemented ought to consider taking legal advice at the earliest opportunity as there are a number of steps which can be taken in anticipation of applying for a divorce, such as considering the resolution of finances or child arrangements.
If you wish to find out more about divorce, separation or any other family matter, please contact Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team on 01772 258321.