No-fault divorces set to come into effect
The Government announced back in spring 2019 that divorce laws in England and Wales were set to change, with the possibility for couples to seek a no-fault divorce, thereby mitigating the need to lay blame on either party when separating.
Originally set to be implemented in autumn 2021, there has been a delay in seeing these reforms go live, but the Government has now indicated that we should see them come into effect in April 2022.
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 to convince the court that the marriage had irreparably broken down.
There may be a number of reasons behind your decision to separate, but broadly speaking, these deciding factors should fit into one of four main categories:
If your spouse has been unfaithful to you and has engaged in sexual activity with another person, this can be valid grounds for divorce.
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 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 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.
How will no-fault divorces work?
The move to introduce no-fault divorces will allow couples to seek to separate on mutual terms without casting 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 broken down, without the need to cite one of the four reasons as stated above (which is currently required).
With this, several key changes will come into effect, including:
Joint applications for divorce will be allowed
Under current laws, in order to obtain a divorce one person has to issue divorce proceedings against the other, stating one of the four reasons previously mentioned. Under the new system, a couple will be able to make an application jointly, without having to cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour, etc. as a reason for their decision.
There will be a minimum of 20 weeks between the application being made and the divorce becoming final
This minimum timeframe has been introduced to provide couples seeking to separate with a ‘period of reflection’, to allow for the opportunity to work through their differences before fully committing to a divorce. The timeframe has been introduced in response to concerns that the new laws would make divorce a quicker and simpler option for couples than trying to save their marriage perhaps would be.
There will no longer be an option to contest a divorce
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 has the option to contest this. When the new no-fault divorce system comes into effect in autumn 2022, this will no longer be an option.
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For further information about the services we offer for couples looking to divorce, please contact our offices on 01282 433241.