Article written by Mandeep Clair, Solicitor, Family
On 6 April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) came into force – a landmark reform introducing ‘no-fault divorce’ for couples ending their marriage or civil partnership. As a result of the new legislation, statistics released by the Ministry of Justice show divorce applications from April-June 2022 at a ten-year high and up 22% from the same quarter in 2021.
So, why were so many couples holding out to file for divorce until after 6 April?
What is no-fault divorce?
No-fault divorce allows couples to divorce without the need to attribute blame to one party. This is intended to make the process less acrimonious and enable people to focus on other practical and emotional aspects of their separation, including reducing conflict for children.
How does no-fault divorce make the process easier for separating couples?
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 brought in several long-awaited changes that make it easier for couples to end their marriage or civil partnership and might explain the recent spike in divorce applications since the new rules came into force.
Grounds for divorce
Previously, divorcing couples had to show that their marriage had irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the ‘five grounds’ of divorce. These were adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, living apart for at least two years with consent and living apart for at least five years without consent.
As the concept of fault has been removed through the reforms, the requirement of showing the marriage has irretrievably broken down is now gone, and couples no longer having to cite one of the five grounds for divorce.
A divorce can no longer be contested
Under the old rules, one party could contest the divorce if they did not agree with the grounds. This could either delay or potentially prevent the divorce from being successful – thus forcing one party to stay married to the other against their wishes.
One of the most significant changes that have been made is that the divorce petition can no longer be contested, except for reasons of jurisdiction.
Under the new system, it is no longer required that one single party initiate divorce proceedings and a joint application can now be made by a couple.
Updated terminology in the divorce process
The terms and wording used previously during the divorce process have now been modernised. The person applying for the divorce is now called the applicant rather than the petitioner. The decree nisi is now a conditional order, and the decree absolute is called the final order.
The importance of legal advice
Despite these new reforms arguably making the divorce process easier, it is still very important to obtain professional legal advice from a family law solicitor to ensure things such as financial matters are dealt with properly at the time of divorce.