No Fault Divorce to Start from April 2022
- AuthorLiz Graham
Divorce is never easy, and for many, it can be made even more stressful by having to give a reason why one of spouses is to blame for the divorce (such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour). However, from April 2022, divorce law is changing. Soon, separating couples will be able to get a divorce, civil partnership dissolution or legal separation without having to blame each other for the breakdown of their relationship.
For many years people have known and accepted that the current law often doesn’t reflect the true feelings of those embarking on divorce. In some cases, the law can even prevent individuals from getting a divorce or dissolution. This is what happened in the high profile case of Tini Owens. So, it’s great news that the government have finally listened to calls for reform and have changed the law.
Under the new law, separating couples will no longer have to rely on one of the ‘five facts’ currently needed to prove the only acceptable ground for divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. Instead, the new law will encourage a more constructive approach to separation and divorce, taking away the need for one party to the relationship to blame the other.
Why does divorce law need reform?
Under the current law, couples wanting to obtain a divorce in the UK must rely on one or more ‘facts’ to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. These facts are:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Adultery (not available for civil partnership dissolution)
- Desertion for at least 2 years
- Separation for at least 2 years with the consent of both parties
- Separation for at least 5 years even if one party disagrees
This law has been criticised for many years for being outdated and unnecessarily causing stress and conflict between couples. In many cases, there is no such conflict – the couple simply drifts apart or decide they want different things in life.
Even if there is conflict between the couple, many argue that the divorce ‘blame game’ is still unnecessary. If one party in the couple wants a divorce, why should they be forced to prove their grievances or potentially even be forced to stay married if the other does not agree with their reasons?
How no-fault divorce will work
Here is how the new law will work and how it could affect you if you are getting a divorce or dissolution from April 2022.
No blame necessary
Under the current law, one party applies for the divorce (the ‘petitioner’ or ‘applicant’) with their reasons for wanting a divorce and the other responds (the ‘respondent’) to accept or defend the application. This often does not reflect a couple’s joint decision to separate. No fault divorce law will allow couples to get a divorce or dissolution without having to provide a reason that apportions blame. You will just be required to provide a statement that the relationship has ‘irretrievably broken down’.
When you file the application at court, the judge will not ask for any reasons or question your statement of irretrievable breakdown. If the Judge is satisfied with the statement, he or she will allow your divorce.
Period of reflection
Some people are worried that the new no fault divorce law will make it too easy for couples to get divorced. So, a longer ‘period of reflection’ has been introduced to encourage couples to think about whether divorce is really right for them.
With the new time scales, most couples will have to wait about 6 months for their divorce or dissolution to finalise. This time is intended to be a period of reflection for both parties to consider whether they truly want to separate.
During this time, couples still need to make separate arrangements to:
- Divide their finances
- Agree to maintenance payments (if necessary)
- Sort out the arrangements for any children
- Agree on an ongoing parenting plan
An end to defended divorce
Under the current law, it is possible to defend a divorce petition if one party disagrees with the reasons provided. This can sometimes result in the parties needing to attend court to resolve the dispute.
Although this scenario is very rare, it can be worrying for people when applying for divorce. The new no-fault divorce law will mean that one party will not be able to stop the divorce, apart from in very narrow circumstances such as fraud.
However, it is sometimes necessary for separating couple to involve the court in some way, for example, to obtain a Financial Order, to make arrangements for children or to formalise a voluntary agreement about finances and/or children.
Contact our solicitors for advice about divorce and separation
For expert advice about divorce and separation, including no-fault divorce, you can contact our local teams in Boston, Bourne, Grantham, Horncastle, Lincoln, London, Newark, Sleaford, Spalding or Stamford.
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