The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into effect on 6 April 2022 and will sweep away the need for “fault based” divorce. Until then, the current rules will apply.
The whole emphasis of this new law is sweep away the necessity to set out allegations of fault on divorce to reduce the conflict between the parties. Under the new rules, there will be no ability to defend a divorce petition. Instead of having to cite grounds for divorce based on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour, parties can now simply give notice that the marriage has broken down. There will be no need to wait two years with consent of the other party or five years if they don’t give consent – this will of course help couples that have hitherto been caught out by capital gains tax rules on the sale or transfer of properties. The emphasis of the new legislation is that reducing conflict between the parties will allow them to concentrate on matters concerning children and finances.
The main objection to the old “fault-based” law was that it set parties off on an acrimonious footing that often could never be reigned back from. It is hoped that the new legislation will allow parties to address divorce issues in a more considered and conciliatory fashion. In order to deal with the new law, one or both of the parties must make an online application in Form D8, which must be completed by the party requesting a divorce and be filed at their regional divorce centre. This will apply to divorcing couples, those ending civil partnerships or same sex marriage. A fee of £550 is paid to the Court and the criteria to be eligible is that parties must have been married for over a year, the marriage must be legally recognised in the UK, they must state if the UK is the parties’ permanent home or that of their spouse and if the marriage has permanently broken down. All the parties will now need to do, either on their own or jointly, is to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown of marriage.
Under the process, the party receiving the application will be required to fill in an acknowledgement that they have received the divorce papers and are satisfied with the reason for divorce. One of the fundamental changes under the new law, is that the option to contest the divorce will no longer be available to the parties.
The penultimate stage of the process is that there is an application for a conditional decree of divorce. If the Judge agrees the parties are granted a certificate, the couple will then need to apply for a final order of divorce.
The most important changes are that a statement confirming that the marriage is beyond repair – i.e, a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down – is the only requirement laid out in the new act for an individual to be granted a divorce. This removes the need to evidence any fault in the other spouse, thereby removing conflict.
The act reduces a minimum 26-week timeframe for the completion of divorce proceedings. The conditional degree is granted in 20 weeks and the final decree is granted six weeks after that. This means the whole process takes six months. This alleviates the necessity for the parties to wait vast amounts of time to end their marriage. The parties can however delay the final order to ensure that their financial position is protected as before.
It’s hoped that the new rules will take away the stress of the current divorce laws and allow a smoother transition for the couple and cases to be finalised more quickly to alleviate the impact on children.