The long-awaited change to the way couples divorce in England & Wales came into effect on 6 April 2022. The process provides a simpler method for parties to divorce and has been welcomed by family lawyers and their clients. However, what are the main changes and, in reality, how will the differences impact those couples who are in an acrimonious relationship?

 

No fault Divorce – what are the key changes?

1. For the first time, a couple can make a joint application for divorce, although applications can still be made by one party. The ability to issue in joint names will avoid recriminations about who takes the first step in the process or why they have done so. Starting the process with dignity can pave the way for a smoother and more amicable financial resolution (and a reasonable approach to dealing with arrangements for the children).

2. Parties can apply for a divorce without having to attribute any reasons or facts for the “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage”. This is a welcome step towards helping a couple divorce with dignity, as often the contents of a Petition cause offence and upset, marking the start of hostility between the parties, which is reflected in the financial proceedings.

3. The new law limits the possible methods of contesting a divorce. In the past, this led to additional cost and delays, sometimes being used as a form of “coercive control” by one spouse against another. The only method of disputing an application for divorce will be based on jurisdictional grounds or on the validity of the marriage.

4. There is a minimum period of 20 weeks from the date of filing the divorce application before one spouse, or both can apply for a Conditional Order (previously the Decree Nisi). An additional enforced period of reflection may help to focus the mind, by contrast to the present process, which can (in some circumstances) be completed in a much time period. The 6 week wait between Conditional Order and any application for Final Order mirrors the timeframe between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute, meaning that the process will last, as a minimum, 26 weeks. There is, however, an option for the Court to shorten the timeframe in certain circumstances, although these reasons have not yet been defined.

5. The process is done online through an efficient portal, with a party’s email being the default service method utilised by the Court. This will avoid inefficiency and speed up the process, saving time and also costs

 

The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (DDSA), with its streamlined and modern procedure for divorcing couples, is to be welcomed. Campaigners and politicians have worked tirelessly to create a system that avoids animosity from the outset, whilst also being clear and concise. That is not to say it will eradicate animosity and hostility in a relationship where these exist, but from now on there will be no possibility for a spouse to use the divorce process per se as a reason for resentment.

 

Family Law Firm in London

To speak to Lucy Marks, dedicated family solicitor, regarding your divorce or other family-related legal issues, contact us today by calling 020 7421 9421, email us at contact@marks-law.co.uk or make an online enquiry here and we will contact you.