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No-Fault Divorce comes into effect from 6th April 2022

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Resolution have succeeded in their campaign to pass the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act. What does this mean? Individuals will be able to apply to a no-fault divorce from 6th April 2022 onwards.

What Are the Rules on Divorce up until 5 April 2022?

Up until 5 April 2022, if you want to get divorced and do not want to wait for a minimum of 2 years after you have made the decision to separate, it is necessary to make allegations that the spouse is to blame, either as a result of their ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery.

Frequently, the reasons provided for within a divorce petition are highly contentious, and inevitably lead to heightened tensions and bitterness. If you haven’t been separated for 2 years, the law requires reasons of fault to be relied upon such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour.

A couple can also be divorced after five years separation if one declines to end the marriage. A considerable amount of time unless someone is willing to take the blame.

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What Is No-Fault Divorce?

The aim of a no-fault divorce is to create a system in which divorcing couples are encouraged to avoid unnecessary acrimony and to achieve a more constructive separation, which is particularly important where there are children of the marriage. The same principles would apply to civil partnerships. During the campaign for no-fault divorce, the following proposals, amongst others, were put forward:

• Retaining irretrievable breakdown as the sole ground for divorce.

• Replacing the five facts used to prove irretrievable breakdown with a notification process to notify the court of the intention to divorce.

• Removing the opportunity for a spouse to contest the divorce application.

This new approach is far more in step with the wider family legal system, when dealing with financial or child arrangements, which seeks to help people resolve issues in a non-confrontational way. Indeed, family lawyers frequently sign up to a code of practice through Resolution committing to dealing with such matters in a non-confrontation manner, which is often at odds with a fault-based divorce process.

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Why Campaign for A No Fault Divorce?

There here have been calls to reform the divorce system for many years, however the matter has been brought to prominence again following the decision in the case of Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Owens was not entitled to a divorce even though both parties openly accepted that the marriage had broken down on the basis that the reasons given in the petition were deemed insufficient to satisfy the court. Lady Hale, who presided over an appeal by Mrs Owens, stated that she had found the case ‘very troubling but it was not for the court to change the law only to interpret it, it is Parliament’s responsibility to change the law’.

There has been a growing feeling that the current system is out of date and out of touch with modern life, and that this case (although highly unusual) is testament to that: requiring a person to remain within a marriage that they no longer wish to be a part of is, for many, unjust. The outcome of this case could also encourage a party to go to greater lengths within the petition just to make sure.


When Can People Apply for No-Fault Divorce?

The plan remains to implement no-fault divorce from 6 April 2022 and (as of 4 March 2022) the rules and guidance on the costs procedure were published at the end of February 2022.

It was announced in June 2021 that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, will not come into force until 6 April 2022, and not autumn 2021 as the government originally planned, despite it receiving royal assent a year before that. The date was later than originally indicated, and this was to allow time for the necessary IT changes to be made to HMCTS’s online divorce systems. The 6th April 2022 is now fixed as a matter of Parliamentary record, rather than the indicative timetable previously being worked towards.

This means that ending a marriage without legal blame at the request of just one partner will come into effect from 6 April 2022 if that is how they want to divorce. The act introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and application for conditional order to give couples a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconsider. Where divorce is inevitable, it will enable couples to cooperate and plan for the future.


What Do Crombie Wilkinson Think?

Crombie Wilkinson have always supported Resolution in their campaign for no-fault divorce because there is #abetterway. We do what we can to support change in the law which will support separating and divorcing couples and their children to move forward with their lives in a healthy way.

Talk to our trusted and caring family law solicitors for advice specific to your circumstances if you are looking to separate from your partner, or you have already separated and want to take the next step to divorce proceedings.

You can contact our family law solicitors at our offices in York, Selby and Ryedale.

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