In June 2020, The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill gained Royal Assent. The new laws will allow parties to petition for divorce without ‘fault’ and will put an end to the ‘blame game’. Courts minister Chris Philip MP has now confirmed that the initial deadline for bringing in ‘no fault divorce’ in Autumn 2021 is to be pushed back, and the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that they are now working on a commencement date of 6th April 2022.
What is the current law?
Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 there is only one ground for a divorce, that being that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The person petitioning for divorce (the Petitioner), has to petition based on one of the following five facts: –
- Unreasonable behaviour
In this instance, the Petitioner must provide the Court with details as to the unreasonable behaviour of the other party that has caused to them to initiate divorce proceedings. They must prove that they cannot reasonably be expected to live with the other party.
Where one party has engaged in extramarital relations with someone else of the opposite sex.
This occurs when one party has deserted the other for a period of two years or more.
- You have been separated for two years or more
One party can petition for divorce if you have been separated for two years and you both agree to the divorce. No details as to the reason for the separation are required.
- You have been separated for five years or more
The Respondent to the petition is not required to consent to a divorce on this fact and no details as to the reason for separation are required.
The law, as it stands, means that if a couple wish to proceed with a divorce for the simple reason that they have fallen out of love, or through no fault of either party, then they must wait until they have been separated for at least two years. The other alternative is that one party petitions for divorce on unreasonable behaviour, which often inflames matters.
What does a ‘no fault’ Divorce mean?
The new laws will mean that rather than having to rely on one of the above facts, the parties will simply have to produce a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The new law will also introduce an option for a joint application, rather than one party petitioning with the other responding. The option to contest the divorce will also be removed.
Once the application for divorce has been made, the Petitioner will need to wait until 20 weeks has elapsed before the Conditional Order (now known in divorce proceedings as the Decree Nisi) can be pronounced. This will give the parties sufficient time to reflect on their decision to divorce. Once the Conditional Order has been pronounced, the Petitioner will need to wait for six weeks and one day before they can make their application for a Final Divorce Order (now known in divorce proceedings as the Decree Absolute).
By removing blame, the new laws will allow parties to petition for divorce on a ‘no fault’ basis and reduce family conflict.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, please contact our Head of Family Monicka Rai by email atMonickaR@BWKsolicitors.co.uk, or by telephone on 01296 747 151 to make an appointment for a free 45 minute, without obligation consultation.