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Delay to no-fault divorce law


Janine Hutson from Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team provides an update on the status of the anticipated changes to divorce laws, which allow for no-fault divorce.

The government confirmed on June 8, 2021, that there will be a delay in the implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 2020. The expected changes to divorce laws, which allow for no-fault divorces, will now be delayed until April 2022. The changes had originally been planned to come into force in the autumn of 2021.

Currently if divorcing couples wish to have a no-fault divorce, they must wait at least two years from the date they separated to issue their divorce proceedings. The new ‘no fault’ procedure will mean that divorcing couples have the option of a no-fault divorce without waiting for two years.

Plans for the new ‘no-fault’ procedure were well received by many divorce lawyers. The need to blame one spouse for the breakdown of the marriage often adds an unwelcome degree of animosity and acrimony into what is already a difficult situation. It is unfortunate that this new procedure will now be delayed.

In a written response to a parliamentary question regarding the delay, Chris Philip, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Ministry of Justice said: “The Ministry of Justice is committed to ensuring that the amended digital service allows for a smooth transition from the existing service which has reformed the way divorce is administered in the courts and improved the service received by divorcing couples at a traumatic point in their lives.

“Following detailed design work, it is now clear that these amendments, along with the full and rigorous testing of the new system ahead of implementation, will not conclude before the end of the year. While this delay is unfortunate it is essential that we take the time to get this right.”

Nigel Shepherd, the former Chair of Resolution who has spearheaded the call for no-fault divorce over many years, said in a release issued from Resolution: “Whilst any delay is disappointing, we do now have certainty over the introduction of this important reform, and will be able to advise clients accordingly.

“We have met with the Ministry of Justice on a regular basis, including the day of this announcement, and have received assurances that the government remains fully committed to bringing the Act into force. We will continue to work closely with them as the date for implementation approaches – we will be seeking concrete assurances at every opportunity that this new date will be met, and will keep members informed of progress and new developments.”

This delay will affect many separating couples who had intended to wait for this change to divorce law expected in autumn, to begin divorce proceedings. This delay may mean at least a further four to six months wait for separating couples who want to divorce using the new law.

If you are deliberating about when to start divorce proceedings and whether to wait for changes in the law, there is still a lot of preparation that can be made prior to issuing divorce proceedings, including compiling and collating financial information, seeking property valuations and considering your post-divorce plans. It is important that you seek legal advice as soon as you start considering divorce, to be able to determine the best course of action to take.

If you wish to discuss how to begin your divorce proceedings or any other matter regarding divorce, please contact Harrison Drury’s divorce and family law team on 01772 258321.

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