No Fault Divorce– The Key Changes and Deadlines coming into force in April
Bethan Thomas, a Senior Associate and Head of our Family team, considers the impending changes relating to divorce and how this affects applications in practice.
Changes to Divorce Law
On 6 April 2022, the law in relation to divorce proceedings is changing. Currently, in order to commence divorce proceedings, one party has to rely on one of five factors to show that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. If the divorce process is to begin within 2 years of separation, one party must currently rely on the conduct of the other, to include either adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is set to make several changes, including:
- An idea commonly known as ‘no-fault divorce’. Elements of conduct and blame are being removed and the parties will simply need to state that the marriage/civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. No further evidence will need to be provided.
- The application for divorce can also be made either by one party or jointly by both parties.
- There will no longer be the ability to contest a divorce, with the statement of irretrievable breakdown being taken as conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down.
- The only grounds to dispute the divorce will be in relation to the validity of jurisdiction for the proceedings.
- A 20-week minimum period will be required between the issue of the application for the divorce and the ‘conditional order’ application, previously known as the Decree Nisi.
Amendments to Language
The new law will retain the two-stage legal process, but the terminology will change.
|Current Terminology||New Terminology|
|Decree nisi||Conditional order|
|Decree absolute||Final order|
Deadlines to Note
The date for change is fast approaching and the Government has now published deadlines relating to the cessation of the current law and the change to the new law. The focus is not when the application is made, but when it is issued by the court.
- All paper applications under the current law must be received by the court by 4pm on 31 March 2022.
- All digital applications wishing to proceed under the current law must be submitted online by no later than 4pm on 31 March 2022. The online service will be unavailable from 31 March to allow for changes. It will not be possible to access a saved digital application during the interim.
- Proceedings issued by the court on or before 5 April will progress under existing law. If an application is submitted before the end of March, it is not guaranteed to be issued prior to the 6 April.
- Applications submitted under the existing law but not issued by the court before 6 April will be returned to the applicant to resubmit under the new procedure.
- New applications will be accepted from 10am on 6 April 2022.
- In relation to urgent applications, HMCTS will continue to accept and issue, by post or email before 5 April 2022. Urgent applications should be sent to [email protected].
If you would like any advice in relation to your separation or divorce or would like to discuss the effect of this change on your application for a divorce, then please contact our Family team.