With the landmark Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 coming into force in April, lawyers are expecting a busy start to the year as the first working Monday of January marks ‘Divorce Day - a day when lawyers traditionally see a steep rise in enquiries following the festive break.
Divorce Day 2022 holds particular significance, as on 6 April 2022 the long-awaited ‘no-fault’ divorce will become law, bringing in significant changes to the way couples apply for a legal separation.
What is the change in law?
This change in law has been a long time coming and is set to bring the ending of a marriage into the 21st century, enabling couples to divorce without having to apportion blame or fault.
Until this new legislation, couples needed to be separated for at least two years or be able to prove their spouse was at fault. Apportioning blame when parties don’t want to can heap enormous stress and strain onto an already often emotionally charged situation, especially when children are involved. It can also be extremely damaging to ongoing relationships between ex-partners. It also helps couples who cannot wait the two years to divorce on grounds of separation or the five years it can take if they don’t have the consent of the other party.
This new legislation now provides another option for couples and brings the UK in line with other countries around the world who have had a much more progressive attitude to divorce. It is hoped too that the opportunity to separate and divorce on a no-fault basis will end some of the stigma that families can feel around this difficult time.
What should couples do?
In the coming months, it is important that couples who have been waiting to separate on a no-fault basis begin plans and discussions.
Open discussions are crucial. While it’s unlikely that the process of choosing to go through a no-fault divorce will be any faster, couples should start talking about when they are going to do it and think about making the application together so there are no surprises or disagreements further down the line.
And while this new legislation is very welcome, but there are still improvements to be made to the divorce process in terms of equality. For example, adultery cannot be cited as grounds for divorce in same-sex marriages, as adultery is only recognised between two people of the opposite sex.
Currently, the accepted ground for divorce in same-sex couples are:
Two years desertion
Parties been separated for two (consent required) or five years (no consent required)
Allocating blame is unfair and often results in more conflict. It can also lead to increased legal fees as people look to contest the divorce and the reasons for it.
This long-awaited and important change to the law is welcome news for many couples, there is still a long way to go in improving the process to ensure it is fair for all.
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Caroline works with clients who have family disputes and problems to achieve an outcome which gives them peace of mind and a positive future.