New ‘No Fault’ Divorce Law

It has been a long time coming, but a new Act of Parliament is due to bring UK divorce law into the 21st century.

At the moment, any person wanting to start a divorce or civil partnership dissolution has to point the blame for the marriage breakdown on the other party, if they are not to rely on a period of separation of two years or more.  This is because for nearly 50 years divorce law has been governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.  This set down the parameters for divorce with the only ground being ‘irretrievable breakdown’ which had to be proved by saying that the other party had either committed adultery, or behaved unreasonably, or had deserted them.  Alternatively, it could be based on 2 years separation (with the other party’s consent) or 5 years separation.

For the majority of those not wanting to wait until they had been separated for two years the only options are adultery or unreasonable behaviour.  This means the divorcing party has to set out several points concerning the other party’s behaviour that they found unreasonable. In addition, new relationships are often formed after the separation, but before the divorce which the law still treats as ‘adulterous’.   This has for many years caused a considerable amount of animosity and unnecessary conflict.  Many separating couples do not want to pick fault with the other party which only makes post-separation relations worse.  This is particularly so where children are involved and/or a financial settlement needs to be achieved.

For a good 30 years, the Government has been pressurised to change our divorce law which is seen as out of date and out of step with modern society.  However, things are about to change – finally!  The Divorce, Dissolution & Separation Act 2020 is due to come into force on 6 April 2022.  This means that from that date divorces will be dealt with differently and briefly, will involve:

  • replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ around behaviour or adultery with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
  • retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
  • creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process
  • removing the ability to contest a divorce
  • introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from petition stage to final divorce (20 weeks from petition stage to decree nisi; 6 weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute).

This new law has been heralded as a positive step enabling parties to divorce on more conciliatory terms and making the process less adversarial.  Something that we at Acorn Family Law welcome as this will be of real benefit to our clients.

If you are contemplating a divorce, Acorn Family Law continues to offer a competitively priced fixed fee package for straightforward cases.  See our costs page for further details.

Call us on 01908 410301 for further details or email us:

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