No-fault divorces being introduced this April

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The law surrounding divorce and separation for married couples and couples in a civil partnership is set to change this April, with no-fault divorces made available from 6th April 2022. 

Whereas the law currently requires one spouse to lay blame on the other in order to obtain a divorce, usually on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour or adultery, the new law will enable couples to make a joint application, removing the requirement to give a reason for the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. 

Having been debated over since 2019, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is set to be the biggest reform of divorce law in the last fifty years, and is designed to enable couples who have reached a mutual decision regarding the end of their marriage to achieve a positive uncoupling rather than engaging in difficult and often stressful legal conflict, which can cause significant issues particularly where children are involved. 

 

What are the changes being made with no-fault divorces? 

 

Removal of blame 

A no-fault divorce will allow couples to separate on mutual terms without the need to cast blame solely onto one party, offering a more civilised and dignified divorce process. 

Under the new laws, a couple will be granted a divorce by stating that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, without the need to cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion as the reason, and without having to be separated for at least two years. 

 

Joint applications for divorce 

Under current laws, in order to obtain a divorce one person has to issue divorce proceedings against the other, stating a reason for the breakdown of the marriage. With the reform, a couple will be able to make an application jointly on the basis of reaching a mutual decision regarding the breakdown of the marriage. 

 

Updated terminology 

Widespread opinion indicates that some of the terminology currently used in the divorce process is outdated. As a result, the reform will also introduce new terminology that’s easier to understand. The person applying for the divorce will become the ‘applicant’ rather than the ‘petitioner’, the ‘decree nisi’ will become the ‘conditional order’, and the ‘decree absolute’ will be renamed the ‘final order’. 

 

Contesting no longer an option 

As things currently stand, one person in the partnership is required to submit a divorce petition, which provides reasons behind their request to legally separate, and their spouse is given the option to contest this. With the new no-fault divorce system, contesting a divorce petition will no longer be an option.

 

How long will a no-fault divorce take? 

An application for no-fault divorce can be submitted jointly or by one spouse. For many, the concern has been that the new reforms will make divorce a quicker and easier option for couples than trying to save the marriage. In order to counter these concerns, there will be a minimum of 20 weeks between issuing proceedings and reaching the first stage of the divorce in order to allow for reflection on the decision and the possibility of reconciliation. 

 

What are the current laws for divorce in England and Wales? 

At present, if a couple wishes to legally divorce, they must make an application to the court which demonstrates their reasons for doing so, with the aim being to convince the court that the marriage has irreparably broken down. 

Broadly, the reasons considered for grounds for divorce fit into four categories: 

 

Adultery 

If you spouse has been unfaithful to you and has engaged in sexual activity with another person, this can be valid grounds for divorce. 

 

Unreasonable behaviour 

Unreasonable behaviour is cited as the most common grounds for divorce in England and Wales, with 51% of all divorce applications from husbands and 36% of all applications from wives stating unreasonable behaviour as the reason. 

Examples of unreasonable behaviour can range from the minor to the major and/or criminal, however the most common examples of unreasonable behaviour used in divorce proceedings are: 

  • Domestic abuse and physical violence 
  • Lack of sexual activity between spouses 
  • Family disputes 
  • Inappropriate relationship with another, or infidelity 
  • Debt or financial recklessness 
  • Verbal abuse, shouting, belittling, or threatening behaviour 
  • Obsessive behaviours, including obsessive hobbies 
  • Lack of socialising together 
  • Excessive drunkenness and/or substance abuse 
  • Lack of support 

 

Desertion 

Desertion can be stated as a reason for divorce in instances where one person has deserted the other without explanation, and has been absent for two years or longer. 

 

Separation 

Separation can be used as a reason for divorce after the couple has been separated for two years, provided both people agree to the divorce, or after five years if not. 

 

DRN’s divorce services 

Experienced divorce solicitors in Lancashire 

If you are facing family or matrimonial difficulties, our team of dedicated solicitors can help you with getting your life back on track. Providing expert, straightforward and practical advice, all of the family solicitors in our team are fully qualified and committed to handling every case with sensitivity and professionalism. 

 

Fixed-fee divorce packages 

Experiencing matrimonial difficulties can cause a great deal of stress, and often the last thing our clients need is the additional worry of the cost of legal support. At DRN, we aim to deliver our services with transparency, which is why we offer fixed-fee packages for a number of separation scenarios. 

 

For further information about the services we offer for couples looking to divorce, please contact our offices on 01282 433241. 

 

 

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