The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill is due to be approved in Parliament and become law in October 2021. Here we look at the impact on divorcing couples and how the process and timings will change.

The current divorce process

At present, when couples who are married or in a civil partnership wish to divorce, one of the partners has to apply to the courts. They must prove that the marriage/civil partnership has broken down and can’t be saved. In order to do this they have cite one of 5 “facts” which are either:

  • adultery (defined as sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex; can’t be used if you have known about it for more than 6 months)
  • unreasonable behaviour (such as violence, abuse, drunkenness, drug taking or lack of financial support)
  • desertion
  • 2 years separation (with consent from both parties)
  • 5 years separation (no consent needed)

This means that where a couple has simply fallen out of love, divorce proceedings cannot take place immediately. It also means that if one party refuses to consent to a divorce after 2 years of separation, the other party has to wait for 5 years before divorce proceedings can start.

In practice this means that often one party will “find” unreasonable behaviour on the part of the other party. This causes acrimony which is not in the best interests of the parties and often this bad feeling can flow over into other issues such as matters concerning the children.

How will the divorce process change?

When the new Bill becomes law, couples who are married or in a civil partnership will have two options:

  • they can jointly apply for dissolution of their marriage/civil partnership; or
  • one partner can apply singly, but will not need to give a reason to the court as to why the marriage has broken down

With no requirement to prove fault, the new rules should help avoid a lot of the bad feeling provoked by the current process.

How will the timings change?

Following recent changes to the divorce procedure, Divorce Centres now deal with divorce/dissolution proceedings. The process takes roughly 26 weeks from start to finish (not including any delay in applying for Decree Absolute to deal with financial matters).

Under the new law, there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of the proceedings to when the Conditional Order (currently known as the Decree Nisi) can be made. There will continue to be a 6 week period between the Conditional Order (currently Decree Nisi) and the Final Order (currently Decree Absolute).

In practice this means that the length of time taken for divorce proceedings from start to finish will remain much the same.

When should you file for divorce?

If you are currently thinking of starting divorce/dissolution proceedings then you need to think carefully about whether it likely to be contested/difficult or not.

The vast majority of divorces proceed without problems and if you aren’t having to wait 2 or 5 years to start proceedings then there is a good argument for starting the process now rather than waiting until October.

If you do not wish to risk waiting for 2 years, are unsure whether your partner will consent to a divorce, or if you don’t want to have to “manufacture” grounds of unreasonable behaviour, then you may wish to wait until the new rules are introduced. This doesn’t however stop you planning the financial aspects of the divorce in advance.

For more information

If you need a friendly, expert divorce lawyer to help you understand the system then we are here to help. Contact us today to arrange a free 30 minute consultation one of our team.

The Backhouse Solicitors Team

Tel: 01245 893400
Visit: 17 Duke Street, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1JU

Or send us a message through the Contact Us page on this website