The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame (“no fault” divorce), will come into force on 6th April 2022.  Here we look at the impact on divorcing couples and how the process and timings will change.

The current divorce process

At present, when a couple who are married or in a civil partnership wish to divorce, one of the partners must apply to the courts.  When applying, the person must prove that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down due to one of the 5 legally accepted reasons for divorce:

  • Adultery – defined as sexual intercourse with someone other than your partner. This cannot be used as a reason if you have known about it for 6 months or more.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour – this includes violence, abuse, drunkenness, drug abuse or lack of financial support.
  • 2 years Separation – the couple have lived separately for this period of time.  This can only be used if both parties agree in writing to a divorce.
  • 5 Years Separation – the couple has lived separately for this period of time.  Both parties do not have to consent to use this reason.
  • Desertion – if a person leaves the marital home without the agreement from their spouse, a good reason for leaving or with the intention of ending the relationship.  It can be difficult for the motives to be proved in this case.

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

When this situation arises, 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 both parties involved and can often overflow into other issues (for example 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 divorce.
  • One partner can apply singularly, but will no longer need to provide a reason to the court for why the marriage has broken down.

How will the timings change?

With the recent changes to divorce procedures, Divorce Centres now deal with divorce/dissolution proceedings.  The process takes around 26 weeks (roughly 6 months) from start to finish.  However, this does not include any delay in applying for Decree Absolute to deal with financial matters.

Under the new No-Fault Divorce Law, there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of the proceedings to when the Conditional Order (currently the Decree Nisi) can be made.  There will continue to be a 6-week period between the Conditional Order and the Final Order (currently the Decree Absolute).

The overall length of time taken for divorce proceedings from start to finish will therefore remain largely the same as it is under the existing rules.

When should you file for divorce?

If you are currently thinking of starting divorce/dissolution proceedings, then you need to think carefully if it is likely to be contested or difficult in any other way.

Most divorces proceed without problems.  If you do not think you will have to wait 2 or 5 years to start proceedings, then there is a good argument for starting the process now rather than waiting until April 2022.

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

We are here to help with your divorce

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 with one of our team.

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