Getting divorced – the 2022 way

From the 6th of April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force. This is the first significant change to divorce law in the UK since the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. A new no-fault divorce approach can now be taken to all divorces and dissolutions for marriages and civil partnerships in England and Wales.

The current divorce law allows a divorce to be granted for an irretrievable breakdown if a couple meets one of the following factors: unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion. Failing to meet these will mean that the option for divorce is through either a 2 year separation with consent or 5 year separation without consent.

These factors have traditionally caused many issues in an already stressful process. Couples have previously had to choose between placing blame on each other or staying trapped in their marriage until a 2 or 5 year desertion period ends. For same sex couples, one of their issues has been the fact that they are unable to rely on the factor of adultery. This is due to the legal definition for adultery only allowing for the act to be between a man and women.

With the new law, we will no longer need to rely on these factors. The requirement will now be to provide a statement to explain why the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  Under the new law, couples can also choose to either apply for the divorce (and the conditional and final orders) jointly, or solely.

The new law brings a welcome change as it recognises that not all marriages or partnerships breakdown due to issues in the marriage. Some decide to mutually bring their relationship to an end, due to no particular fault of either party. With the new law removing the requirement for blame and allowing applications to be mutual, it hopes to reduce disputes and allow harmonious and amicable proceedings. There is also hope that the new law will place less strain on couples and reduce stress, allowing them to move on easier. The change could also see a reduction of falsifying reasons for divorce as there will no longer be a need to make their breakdown fit a particular factor.

The other changes to the law will include the new legislation being written in plainer English, rather than the outdated Latin of the old law, and the possibility to contest a divorce no longer being available. There will also no longer be a decree nisi or decree absolute granted as these have been replaced by new orders.

Although it sounds like a quicker process with joint mutual applications, there will still be a requirement for a minimum of 20 weeks between starting proceedings and applying for the new conditional order. A further 6 weeks and 1 day will then need to pass before the new final order can be granted. This is to ensure that the process still allows couples a reconciliation or reflection period.

For couples wondering how the new law will affect them, we at Donnelly & Elliott are here to help and guide you through the process. Our qualified and experienced team will be happy to answer your enquiries and reassure you that the new process brings a fresh approach to divorce and provides better options for the future.