It has been confirmed that the introduction of no-fault divorce, which is part of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, has been delayed until 6 April 2022.
The act was due to come into force in Autumn 2021, but the government have now announced that they will be unable to meet their own target as they look to ensure the procedural rules for the changes are suitable. It has also been noted that the delay will also be used to strengthen signposting to family mediation as a means to resolve arrangements for children and the division of assets.
The news that no-fault divorce has been delayed will come as a blow, particularly as it has been over 12 months since the legislation was passed following years of prior campaigning.
What is no-fault divorce and why is being introduced?
The current divorce laws in the UK have long been seen as outdated, having not been significantly updated for over 50 years. One of the biggest issues many people have is that any couple who wishes to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution must be able to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down.
To do this, couples need to rely on one or more reasons – even if they do not necessarily apply to the context of their separation. These are:
- Adultery (unavailable for civil partnership dissolution)
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for at least 2 of the previous 2.5 years
- Separation for at least 2 years with consent
- Separation for at least 5 years without consent
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which will introduce the concept of no-fault divorce, proposes a number of changes. These include:
- Removing the requirement to give a reason to prove irretrievable breakdown
- Updating the existing language around the divorce
- Introducing joint applications for divorce
- Removing the option to contest a divorce
- Introducing a minimum period of 20 weeks from the initial proceedings until a Conditional Order of divorce has been granted
Why is no-fault divorce being delayed?
Chris Philip MP, who revealed the news in response to a parliamentary question, admitted that this year’s target date set by the government was always ambitious, so the news does not come as a huge surprise.
His reasoning for the delay was down to the huge changes that need to be made to divorce law, all of which are unlikely to be completed in time for the initial Autumn deadline. These changes include amendments to court ruled, practice directors for divorce claims and an implementation of an online divorce service.
In a statement, he said: “the Ministry of Justice is committed to ensuring that the amended digital service allows for the smooth transition from the existing service which has reformed the way divorce is administered in the courts and improved the service received by divorcing couples at a traumatic point in their lives.
“Following detailed design work, it is now clear that these amendments, along with the full and rigorous testing of the new system ahead of implementation, will not conclude before the end of the year.”
How will the delay affect divorcing couples?
Even though the government have now set a new target date which is just shy of a year away, there is still a possibility that there will be even further delays somewhere down the line.
For this reason, our experienced divorce solicitors advise that it is not worth sitting and waiting for the introduction of no-fault divorce before starting divorce proceedings. So long as there are no significant disputes arising, it will usually be in your family’s best interests to proceed as normal.
If you have any concerns over disputes arising over arrangements related to divorce, such as the division of assets, property and what will happen to your children, then we recommend you speak to our expert divorce solicitors for friendly, practical advice.
Get expert advice about no-fault divorce
At Devereux & Co, we have a team of expert divorce solicitors who can advise you in relation to no-fault divorce and what it might mean for your family.
Even when no-fault divorce is finally introduced, there are still plenty of complex arrangements that need to be carefully discussed, so seeking legal advice at the earliest opportunity will help to remove the potential for disruptive conflict.