What is new?
Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020
Fundamental changes have been made to divorce law in England and Wales. Divorces can start without one spouse having to “blame” the other.
Attitudes to divorce have changed since 1973, when the current divorce laws commenced. The new “no fault divorce” aims to reduce conflict, avoiding the need to apportion blame.
Hopefully the new procedure will increase the possibility of parties resolving matters consensually.
The new law
As in the previous system, parties must have been married for a year, before issuing proceedings. Divorce starts by one, or both parties, filing a statement confirming the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This will be all the evidence required; the divorce will follow.
It is no longer possible to defend a divorce, save in very specific situations, such as if a party challenges the validity of the marriage. The new system will apply to both marriages and civil partnerships.
It will take slightly longer to obtain a divorce under the new system; about 6 months. The new system will be simpler. There will be a “cooling off” period of 20 weeks, after the initial application. It is hoped the parties might reflect upon their decision to divorce. They may attend counselling or even reconcile. It gives time to think about arrangements for children and the financial matters.
After the 20 weeks period, it will be possible to apply for a conditional order of divorce. The final order can be sought a minimum of 6 weeks after that decree.
Change of Terminology
The wording used in the process has modernised. The person applying is “the applicant”; decree nisi becomes “conditional order” and decree absolute will be the “final order”.
The way forward
These changes to the divorce law are welcome. It should reduce conflict, enabling couples to focus on the important issues. Sorting out arrangements for the children and a resolution to their financial claims.