April 4, 2022
The long-awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (the Act) finally becomes law on 6 April 2022.
Tayntons’ Head of Family Law and partner Chris Price takes a look at the changes it will make and how they may be beneficial for those seeking a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership as well as the legal process involved.
Current divorce law
Currently, to obtain a divorce or civil partnership an individual needs to show that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. There are five facts which can demonstrate this, as follows:
- Adultery (although this is not available in respect of a civil partnership dissolution)
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years separation (where the other party consents to the divorce or dissolution)
- Five years separation
Three of these five facts require the parties to have been living apart for at least two years, while the other two facts require the apportionment of blame by one of the parties, either for adultery or for unreasonable behaviour.
It is also currently open to someone to defend divorce proceedings to try and prevent a divorce from happening. This has led to individuals being unable to obtain a divorce in some circumstances, meaning they are trapped in marriages they wish to leave.
Changes to divorce law under the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2022
The new law aims to address criticisms that apportioning blame can further damage a relationship. This can be particularly unhelpful if there are children involved.
While it will still be necessary to confirm that a relationship has irretrievably broken down, the new Act does not require a statement accusing either party of issues such as unreasonable behaviour or adultery.
It will be possible for one party only to make an application to the court for a divorce, without the need for any input from the other. They will be able to state that the relationship has irretrievably broken down and this will be sufficient for the court to consider granting a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership.
The new law will also allow couples to make a joint application to the court asking for a divorce.
Benefits of the new divorce law
The Act aims to reduce conflict in divorce by removing the need for either party to blame the other. The courts and the legal system are focusing more and more on resolving issues amicably in divorce, separation and dissolution of civil partnerships without the need for litigation.
Parties are encouraged to find solutions by way of negotiation, mediation and other methods of alternative dispute resolution such as collaborative law. The new Act aims to help this process by making the legal side of ending a marriage or civil partnership simpler and less contentious.
It should also prevent individuals from being stuck in marriages that have irretrievably broken down, as it will no longer be possible to defend divorce proceedings.
The legal basis for obtaining an order will now be the same for both marriages and civil partnerships.
The language used has been simplified, with the terms decree nisi and decree absolute replaced with the terms conditional order and final order.
A period of reflection has been introduced to give the party making the application time to consider whether they want to go ahead. It is now a requirement that they wait 20 weeks after applying to the court before they can ask for a conditional order.
By making divorcing or dissolving a civil partnership simpler, it is hoped that couples will be able to manage the other aspects of ending a relationship more easily. At the same time as legally ending a marriage or civil partnership, you should also deal with financial matters as well as putting arrangements for any children of the relationship in place.
If you are able to agree on financial matters, the court can be asked to make a consent order so that the agreement becomes legally binding. The same applies to arrangements for children. Where there is less acrimony, there is a better chance of reaching an agreement without the need for court intervention.
It is hoped that more couples will be able to deal with all aspects of a divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership without litigation. This is not only a quicker way of resolving matters, but it is generally more cost-effective and can help a couple to work together constructively in the future, which is important where children are involved.
The new divorce or civil partnership dissolution process
Filing the divorce or civil partnership dissolution application
The new process will begin with an application to the court stating that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. This will need to be accompanied by the court fee of £593. One or both parties will make the application and fill in a form setting out why they want a divorce or dissolution and the arrangements they wish to make in respect of their property, finances and children.
To be eligible to ask the court for a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, the following must apply:
- You have been married or in a civil partnership for over a year
- Your marriage or civil partnership is recognised in UK law
- You or your spouse or civil partner are resident in the UK
- Your relationship has irretrievably broken down
Response from the other party
The court will send a copy of your application to the other party, who should respond by sending back an acknowledgement of service.
Application for a conditional order of divorce or dissolution
After a period of at least 20 weeks, the party who filed the initial application can ask the court to grant a conditional order. This is an interim order, giving notice that the court intends to grant a divorce or dissolution.
Application for a final order of divorce or dissolution
Six weeks after the date of the conditional order, either or both parties can apply for a final order. Where both parties made the initial application, but only one will be making the application for the final order, the party making the application must serve notice of their intention on the other party 14 days in advance.
It should be noted that it is usually advisable to ensure that you have made financial arrangements before your divorce or civil partnership dissolution is finalised.
Contact our expert family law solicitors in Gloucester
Going through the ending of a relationship can be stressful as well as upsetting. At Tayntons Solicitors, we will do all we can to make things as easy as possible for you and to achieve the outcome you want. As well as dealing with your divorce or civil partnership dissolution, we can work with you to put a financial agreement and arrangements for children in place.
Head of our Family Department, Chris Price, has a reputation for excellence in dealing with all aspects of divorce and civil partnership dissolution and is an expert negotiator. He works with clients to provide tailored advice and representation, ensuring they secure the outcome they need. He has particular expertise in dealing with complex divorces and works to resolve disputes with minimum conflict, particularly where children are involved.