We are pleased to report that, in a follow-up to our previous article back in April 2019, a date has now finally been named for the introduction of no-fault divorces. Previously due to take effect in Autumn of this year, it was announced last week that the date has been pushed back until 6th April 2022.
Under the new law divorcing couples will be able to apply for a divorce (either individually or jointly) simply on the basis that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, rather than relying on the current system which requires the Petitioner to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down based on one of five facts: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; 2 years separation with consent; or 5 years separation.
Other changes to be introduced by the new law include:-
- updates to the outdated terminology used to indicate the different stages of divorce proceedings (goodbye Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute!); and
- the removal of the right for one spouse to challenge the divorce if the other party wishes to proceed, marking the end of contested divorces.
In view of the above – and also the more general shift towards separating couples embracing alternative methods of dispute resolution such as Collaborative Law, Arbitration and Mediation – it certainly looks as though we’re heading towards a divorce system which removes a lot of unnecessary stress and animosity and encourages an amicable outcome wherever possible.
When the Bill was first being debated in Parliament last year, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the bill will seek to make separation “less traumatic“. He told MPs: “No-one sets out thinking that their marriage is going to end, no-one wants their marriage to break down, none of us are therefore indifferent when a couple’s lifelong commitment has sadly deteriorated”. “It is a very sad circumstance but the law, I believe, should reduce conflict when it arises”. “Where divorce is inevitable, this bill seeks to make the legal process less painful.”
As a Family team which prides itself on trying to steer clients away from the “blame game”, and to achieve settlements which meet the needs of both parties and their children, we certainly welcome these changes and hope that they will make the process significantly less confrontational (and indeed costly) for couples going forward.
It should however be noted that the new no-fault system will not necessarily lead to a quicker process for divorcing couples. To allow for a period of reflection and an opportunity for couples to change their minds if the decision to divorce has perhaps been made impulsively, the new rules state that there must be a minimum period of six months between lodging the petition and the final order.
Swinburne Maddison’s Family Department have a number of Accredited Specialist Family Lawyers, as well as two trained Collaborative Lawyers, all of whom will offer you a tailored service to guide you through divorce or separation in a fair and amicable manner.
Should you require any specialist legal advice in relation to divorce, separation or finances please contact either Kath Hill (email@example.com) or Catherine Lowther (firstname.lastname@example.org) either by email or on 0191 384 2441.