From Autumn 2021, couples in the UK will be able to separate without having to blame one another for the breakdown of their relationship thanks to the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce. This is being introduced by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which is currently on course to receive Royal Assent and become law in England and Wales.
Under current laws, couples who wish to separate have to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down – often leading to blame falling on one party.
The reforms will encourage a more collaborative approach to separation for couples who are married or in a civil partnership, as well as making the process faster and less costly.
Why is divorce law changing?
Currently, any couple that wishes to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution in the UK can only do if they are able to prove their relationship has irretrievably broken down. For this to be the case, the couple has to prove one or more of the following reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Adultery (not available for civil partnership dissolution)
- Desertion for at least 2 years (in the last 2.5 years)
- Separation for at least 2 years with the consent of both spouses
- Separation for at least 5 years
This means that couples who are not in conflict and have simply drifted apart must find a reason to separate, often leading to unnecessary animosity. Further issues can also arise if neither party is willing to immediately accept any blame for the failure of the relationship.
What will the changes be?
The proposals included in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill include:
- Removing the need for couples to provide reasons to demonstrate their relationship has irretrievably broken down
- Introduce the option for separating couples to make a joint application for divorce
- Introducing the option for Joint Applications
- Removing the option to contest a divorce
- Changing the terminology surrounding divorce:
- ‘Decree nisi’ will be changed to a ‘Conditional Order’
- ‘Decree Absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’
- The ‘Petitioner’ will become the ‘Applicant’
- Introducing a minimum period of 20 weeks from the initial proceedings until a Conditional Order of divorce has been granted
How will the changes affect separating couples?
The proposed changes will have a number of benefits for separating couples:
- The ‘blame game’ will be removed. Couples will be able to make a Joint Application for divorce and neither party will have to make accusations against one another.
- As individuals will no longer be able to contest a divorce, no one will be stuck in a marriage that they want to leave. This will also help to give domestic abusers less control over their victims.
- Couples will have more time to reflect on their decision to separate and decide whether there is an opportunity to reconcile. If not, the new changes will provide couples with a chance to make arrangements for finances, children and maintenance payments.
Will couples still need a solicitor for a no-fault divorce?
Despite the simplification of the divorce and civil partnership process, couples will still need the support of an experienced solicitor to ensure that everything goes ahead smoothly.
There are still plenty of complex arrangements that need to be made in the event of a divorce or civil partnership dissolution, so seeking legal advice at the earliest opportunity will remove the potential for conflict.
At Devereux & Co, our divorce solicitors are able to provide expert advice on any aspect of the divorce and separation process, including no-fault divorce.