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No-Fault Divorce

Posted: 12th May 2022

Our Family Department shed a little light on the new No-Fault Divorces...

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 brought into effect on 6th April 2022 is the biggest reform in this area of law in over 50 years.

The new procedure removes the requirement for spouses to pass blame onto one another in order to petition for divorce. Under the old legislation spouses either had to petition based on one party's unreasonable behaviour or adultery if they wanted to begin divorce proceedings immediately upon their separation. This often led to instances of increased conflict and animosity where parties had hoped to separate on an amicable basis.

Alternatively, parties had to wait 2 years following separation to begin divorce proceedings with their spouses' consent or 5 years without it if they did not wish to pass blame onto one another.

Under the new legislation parties will simply need to confirm that their marriage has irretrievably broken down - the 'no fault divorce' procedure. The requirement to pass blame has been removed.

The new legislation provides the option for parties to issue a joint application for divorce. This was not something that was available under the old legislation although the option to make an application as a sole applicant remains.

The option to defend divorce proceedings has also been removed, save for where there is an issue of fraud or as to the jurisdiction of the Court. This change stems from the case of Tini Owens (Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41i) in July 2018 where the Supreme Court ruled she could not divorce her husband after he defended the divorce proceedings by saying his behaviour was not unreasonable enough. Mrs Owens was forced to wait until the parties had been separated for 5 years to file a petition for divorce despite Mrs Owens describing their marriage as 'loveless'.

Under the old legislation the Court could decide if the parties were entitled to a divorce by looking at the particulars of the divorce petition and what led to the marriage breakdown. This has now been removed and the Court will not go beyond the statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. It is hoped this will make the procedure much more streamlined and less invasive for parties.

The new legislation brings into effect a minimum twenty-week period of reflection between the divorce application and the granting of the Conditional Order. Once this time has elapsed, the Applicant will be able to confirm that they want the divorce to proceed and the Court will grant the Conditional Order. Once this has been granted, the minimum time period of 6 weeks remains before an application for Final Order to dissolve a marriage can be made.

It is hoped that this reform of divorce law will help to reduce unnecessary conflict and tension between separating spouses and allow a divorce to proceed on an amicable basis, removing the need to place blame onto one spouse for the marriage breakdown.

For more information or to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced and friendly Family Solicitors, please contact either our Whitehaven office on 01946 694818 or our Workington office on 01900 67363. Alternatively email our /Workington-Office or our /Whitehaven-Office directly and a member of our team will get back to you.

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