The New Divorce Laws
Rachel Baul, a Senior Associate Solicitor with law firm LCF Law, explains how the law affecting divorce is about to change
Our Divorce Laws in England and Wales have been set in stone since 1973. On 6th April 2022 all of this will change with the introduction of the new ‘no-fault divorce’. An entirely new divorce process will be introduced. Previously people divorcing had to choose one of five reasons for a divorce: unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years’ separation if both parties consent, five years’ separation if one party objects, or desertion. These were very restrictive options and didn’t account for people simply growing apart.
The new law means that only no-fault divorces will be possible. Currently, to get divorced immediately, you have to make accusations of unreasonable behaviour or adultery, or wait out the two or five year period of separation.
It is hoped that the new no-fault divorce law will reduce the acrimony that often arises, particularly when the fault based grounds of behaviour and adultery are contested, resulting in unnecessary legal costs and delay.
If anyone wishes to cite one of the current reasons for a divorce they will need to do so well in advance of 6th April 2022.
After that date, all applications will need to be made online via a divorce portal. The parties can submit the application for the divorce either jointly or individually, which is a crucial new feature. Whoever submits the application for a Divorce Order (‘The Applicant’) has to confirm that they have discussed the prospect of reconciliation. There is no longer an option for the other party (‘The Respondent’) to defend the divorce, which previously has been a huge point of contention. They will not have to agree to get divorced anymore.
Divorce at present has a two stage process, the decree nisi when the court is satisfied that the grounds for divorce have been proven, and then six weeks and a day later the application for decree absolute can be made. These terms are changing. The first stage will be called the Conditional Order, and the final stage will be the Final order.
Once the Applicant files for divorce, they can apply for the first stage (Conditional Order) 20 weeks later. They can then apply for the Final Order six weeks after that and bring the marriage to an end.
One of the compelling reasons for the new no-fault divorce is to remove the opportunity for accusations of blame, to keep matters amicable and create an environment that is conducive to resolving the issues arising from the divorce such as property sales or childcare. It will be interesting to see if this works in practice.