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Divorce law modernisation from spring 2022

The divorce laws in England and Wales are due to be transformed in spring 2022 to allow for ‘no fault’ divorces – the biggest change in almost 50 years.

Now that The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 has received Royal Assent, the government is amending the necessary rules and regulations.

How will the shake up affect the divorce process?

The divorce process will be simplified, but it will also take longer – a minimum time period of 26 weeks. If a couple’s marriage has irretrievably broken down and both parties are in agreement, they will be able to jointly apply to the Court for a divorce. If a couple can’t agree, or just one party wants to divorce, an application can be made as a single person stating that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

At present, a couple must have lived separately for two years before a divorce can be applied for – even if both parties agree. The new laws will remove the requirement for couples seeking a divorce to have lived apart for a specific amount of time.

Additionally, divorce terminology will be modernised. For example, a ‘Decree Nisi’ certificate will become a ‘Conditional Order’, whilst a ‘Decree Absolute’ will be known as a ‘Final Divorce Order’.

Will the grounds for divorce change?

At the moment, the law requires a statement of facts to be submitted to the Court claiming that one person has committed adultery; behaved in a way that the other finds unreasonable or has deserted the other person.

Next year’s law change means there will be no requirement in the future to make allegations, allowing for ‘no fault’ divorces.

The new laws will not change any legal procedures relating to financial- or children-related issues, therefore it is still important to obtain legal advice.

Why is the law changing?

The law change follows the case of Owens and Owens in 2018. The couple disagreed over their divorce and despite having an affair and living separately, a Judge ruled that Mrs Owens could not prove that their marriage had irretrievably broken down. The new laws will therefore remove the blame element.

Should I delay my divorce until next year?

There is no advantage in delaying a divorce until spring 2022, other than the removal of the blame element. There are currently no plans for the government to reduce Court fees for divorce.

For confidential advice on Family Law issues, including divorce and separation, children and financial issues, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, and co-habitation agreements, please contact 0113 201 4902 or email family.law@emsleys.co.uk.

Gabbie  Clasper

Written by

Gabbie Clasper

Head of Family Law

Gabbie has over 20 years’ experience in family law. She has expert knowledge in complex issues including financial aspects following divorce; pre and post-nuptial agreements; cases with an international element; and civil partnerships. Gabbie is regularly instructed by clients based across the country and abroad. She...

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