Under current divorce legislation, as set out in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a person can petition for a divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage in reliance of one of five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years’ separation with their spouse’s consent, and five years’ separation without the need for their spouse’s consent.
Similarly, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 allows for a dissolution order to be sought on the same basis – save that adultery is not one of the available facts.
But as of April 2022, this is set to change. A principle called “no fault divorce” is coming into effect, courtesy of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. It is important to note that whilst the new law is commonly referred to as “no fault divorce”, the same reform applies to the dissolution of civil partnerships.
Under this new legislation, you will be able to make an application for divorce on the ground that the marriage has irretrievably broken down without the need to satisfy the Court of one of the five facts. If you wish, you and your spouse can also apply jointly for a divorce.
A conditional order will replace the previously named decree nisi but this cannot be made until 20 weeks after the divorce application has been filed in Court. Some six weeks from the date of the conditional order, either party can ask the Court to make a final divorce order to conclude the proceedings. Once this is granted, you are legally divorced.
It is important to note that under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, you still cannot apply for a divorce order before the expiration of 12 months since the date of marriage. Also, the basis on which a divorce application can be defended under the new legislation is far more limited.
Marriage breakdown and divorce proceedings can be an incredibly stressful time for families. It is hoped that by removing the necessity to establish a “guilty” party within the marriage, the process will take less of an emotional toll on families, and instead allow an amicable relationship to continue, insofar as the circumstances allow.
Additionally, minimising extended timeframes within the divorce proceedings will hopefully lessen the financial burden placed upon those living separately prior to a division of the marital assets.
Instead, we would hope to see focus shifted to resolving more important matters arising from a marriage breakdown, namely child arrangements and any financial issues.
If you have any queries in respect of divorce, dissolution of a civil partnership or judicial separation, please contact us on telephone number 01723 866353, to arrange a 15 minute free telephone appointment with our Debbie Agus.