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No-fault divorce: ending the unnecessary blame game

Posted on July 13th 2021

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, due to be implemented on 6th April 2022, is being seen as a significant step in the right direction for those who have observed the impact blame has on relationship breakdowns, and are looking for a better way for people to separate.

Indeed, it was the landmark case of Owens v Owens SC [2018] UKSC 41 which clearly demonstrated how outdated the current law is. This case attracted enough public and political attention that led to the government announcing in 2019 they would seek to end the “unnecessary blame game” that is the current divorce process.

Current legislation

The current divorce law requires one of the parties to rely on one or more ‘facts’ to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. These facts are:

  • Adultery;
  • Unreasonable behaviour;
  • Desertion for at least 2 years;
  • Separation for at least 2 years, with the consent of both parties;
  • Separation for at least 5 years, even if one party disagrees.

Therefore, in order for a divorce to be granted, either spouse must make allegations of conduct or face years of being separated before divorce can be pronounced.

New legislation

The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will:

  • Introduce joint applications. This will allow a couple to agree that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
  • Update the language used in the divorce process:
    • ‘Decree Nisi’ will become ‘Conditional Order’;
    • ‘Decree Absolute’ will become ‘Final Order’;
    • ‘Petitioner’ (the party submitting the divorce application) will become ‘Applicant’.

The new timeline will follow:

  1. Statement of irretrievable breakdown;
  2. 20-week period of reflection;
  3. Conditional order granted;
  4. 6-week period;
  5. Final order granted, officially severing the marriage.

This new streamlined process ensures proceedings are not unnecessarily dragged out. However, it is worth noting it is unlikely the reforms will allow for a quicker divorce; the new process involves a six-month period before you can finalise your divorce, allowing time for a meaningful reflection prior to separation.

What does this mean for you?

It is envisaged that the introduction of ‘no-fault divorce’ will reduce conflict; with a no-blame culture being implemented. It is hoped that this will encourage more constructive discussions between parties, with a focus onto trying to resolve matters of property, children, and finances more amicably. In turn, if the divorce process is less contentious, this could lead to better outcomes, quicker resolution, and therefore less expensive legal costs.

How can we help?

If you wish to speak with one of our Family Solicitors about how we can guide you through the divorce process, whether this is under old or new legislation, then please call 01244 312 306.

Call and speak to a lawyer on 01244 312306