Finally, after years of lobbying parliament and seeking reform of the outdated archaic divorce laws, we see the fruits of our labour with the incoming new no-fault divorce law - Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (DSSA) 2020 on 6 April 2022, enabling separating couples to proceed with divorce/ dissolution of civil partnership on a non-contentious basis.
I have been a member of resolution for most of my career (for over 25 years) - a professional body of specialist family lawyers and other professionals who support divorcing and separating couples. Resolution campaigned tirelessly for many years to bring into fruition no-fault divorce and we stand proud today of our achievements in securing the new blame-free divorce process.
Please see resolution’s bulletin ‘Get ready for no-fault divorce’ that sets out key dates for implementing the change in law and process as well as providing links to new draft documents.
The Ministry of Justice has published an information pack to help professionals engaged in supporting separating and divorcing clients prepare for the changes, as well as preparing divorcing couples themselves for the changes that come into effect on 6 April 2022. Please do take the time to read if you are separated and/ or contemplating divorce to be better informed on the new law and change in process.
The new no-fault divorce will end 'the blame game' and toxicity that usually polarises parties and fuels hostility, resentment, bitterness and anger. The existing divorce law does not bode well for divorcing couples and their families as inevitably, there is no room for compromise with emotions and tensions running high, blocking any opportunity for sensible reasoning and dialogue.
Thankfully, from 6 April 2022 we will have a greater chance of supporting separating and divorcing couples to have amicable divorces with the end of the blame game.
There is only one ground for divorce namely, ‘the marriage has irretrievably broken down’. Under the existing law this must be supported and substantiated by one of the following five facts:
2. Unreasonable behaviour
4. two-year separation with consent
5. Five-year separation
The new no-fault divorce process allow parties to file a 'Joint Application' for divorce unlike the existing law and there is no longer a requirement to substantiate any of the 5 facts above. The only requirement is to file a ‘statement of irretrievable breakdown’.
Parties will not be able to defend a divorce application under the new law but in certain restricted circumstances, objections and challenges can be made for example, on jurisdictional grounds or upon the basis that the marriage is invalid.
The terminology will change to make it simpler and to cut out legal jargon –
There will no longer be a divorce ‘Petition’ instead it will be referred to as a divorce ‘Application’.
The parties will be referred to as ‘Applicant’ (no longer ‘Petitioner’) and ‘Respondent’ if filing as a Sole Applicant.
If filing as Joint Applicants, they will be referred to as ‘Applicant 1’ and ‘Applicant 2’.
‘Decree Nisi’ will be known as ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ known as ‘Final Order’.
There is still a bar on filing for divorce within the first year of marriage and a new time frame introduced to allow for a period of reflection and negotiation with a view to sorting out arrangements for children and finances amicably, if possible, with the support of a mediator and/ or lawyer led negotiations or other dispute resolution options, if the parties cannot reach agreements directly between them.
A Conditional Order cannot be applied for until a minimum period of 20 weeks has lapsed from the date the divorce application was issued by the court. There will also remain in place the existing 6 week bar on finalising the divorce after a Conditional Order. The parties must wait for a further period of 6 weeks before dissolving their marriage and securing a Final Order.
The total time frame is extended to 6 months (26 weeks) in the hope that divorcing couples will be empowered to reach their own resolutions on all issues arising out of their separation and divorce regarding child arrangements and finances within a reasonable time frame avoiding protracted and costly court proceedings.
If you are curious about how mediation can help support you and your family through separation and/or divorce, you may wish to consider our FAQs page and/or book in a Free Discovery Call via our services page.
The blog on ‘How to start the mediation process and get the ball rolling’ may also prove to be a helpful read.
We will then get in touch with your ex-partner (unless requested not to at this stage) to encourage them to engage in the process highlighting the benefits of family mediation - it supports a kinder, compassionate divorce, lower costs, staying in control of outcomes and allows for a quicker resolution compared to court-based proceedings.