The latest on landmark ‘no fault’ divorce legislation
Family law solicitor Emily Finn looks at the latest plans to introduce a ‘no fault’ divorce law in April 2022.
After a period of campaigning undertaken by family lawyers and other practitioners to ‘end the blame game’ in divorce law, Parliament agreed in June 2020 to change the law to introduce ‘no fault divorce’, allowing couples to divorce without fault. This was a landmark decision after a long period of campaigning.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed in June 2020.
The new legislation, once in force, will allow couples to divorce (or dissolve a civil partnership) without having to cite blame for breakdown of the relationship against the other and without having to wait to be separated for a specified length of time. Currently, unless a couple have been separated for at least two years and both consent to divorce, or five years where one party does not consent, they cannot divorce without proving the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage by either ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery.
It was recognised that this was causing a great injustice to separating couples, often significantly inflaming an already very difficult time in people’s lives and affecting the ability to deal constructively with important financial and children matters.
Although the landmark legislation was originally due to come into force in October 2021, it has now been put back to 6 April 2022 to allow sufficient time to sort out the technicalities. Implementation of the new law without further delay is vital to assist in reducing conflict and allow focus on resolution of any financial matters and children arrangements in a constructive way.
Couples who are divorcing without using solicitors can already use the HMCTS online divorce portal to obtain their divorce and this will remain the case upon implementation of the new ‘no fault divorce’ law in April 2022. From 13 September 2021 this online digital divorce system will also fully replace the previous paper forms used by family law solicitors. By the ‘no fault divorce’ implementation date in April 2022, all divorce applications will be submitted and processed using the online system.
Under the new law, either or both parties will be able to apply for a divorce or dissolution. A simple statement will be required that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and there will no longer be any need to point blame. The new legislation also removes the possibility of contesting a divorce, another inflammatory aspect of the current law which can take focus away from dealing with important issues relating to arrangements for children and financial matters.