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Long-awaited divorce reforms are finally coming

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Significant changes are coming to the UK’s divorce process, including the introduction of the ‘no-fault’ divorce. Let’s find out more.

On June 25th, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act received Royal Assent after passing through Parliament. This news may not have received much coverage, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Brexit and everything else, but it will have a drastic effect on people thinking about divorce. The Act is scheduled to come into effect in the autumn of 2021.

In this article, we’ll look at the changes the Act will bring, why it matters and why we believe it will improve the divorce process in the UK.

What’s happening?

Before we can understand what the changes mean, we need to look at what came before.

Currently, divorce is run in accordance with the Divorce Reform Act of 1969. It requires that if a couple wants to get divorced, they must be separated for two years, or five years if only one party agrees to the divorce. The only away to achieve a divorce without this waiting period is if one party can prove ‘fault’ with the other, and the other party accepts this fault. Examples of these faults include adultery, desertion and ‘unreasonable behaviour’.

The new Act removes these requirements, creating a ‘no-fault’ divorce, in line with many other countries in the world. From autumn 2021:

  • A couple may apply for divorce individually or together, citing the reason that their marriage has irretrievably broken down
  • The waiting period to finalise the divorce becomes 26 weeks
  • There is no two or five-year separation period
  • No, one party will have to prove ‘fault’ or ‘unreasonable behaviour’
  • Neither party can contest the divorce

There is also a change to the legal terminology around divorce – it is the end of the Latin decrees. The ‘decree nisi’ will now be known as the ‘conditional order’, while the ‘decree absolute’ will be called the ‘final order’. People going through divorce will no longer be ‘petitioners’ – they will be ‘applicants.’

Why it matters

The new Act will bring a range of benefits to couples going through divorce.

Times have changed since 1969. Today, couples are more likely to end up in a situation where they simply no longer wish to be married; to cite adultery or desertion is unnecessary. The marriage is just ‘over’.

Currently, the law requires one party to place blame on the other, with the other party usually, having to accept it. Otherwise, they must stay legally married for at least two years. Having to do this can cause needless anger and bitterness on both sides, during an already difficult time. When children are involved, it can affect them too. The new Act should make it easier to achieve an amicable divorce, where both sides wish each other well. It should make co-parenting easier to arrange.

Also, by removing the five-year separation period when one side doesn’t consent to the divorce, it prevents people ‘trapping’ their spouses in a loveless or abusive marriage.

Finally, the new Act should make time-consuming, costly and contentious legal processes far rarer.

Find out more from Goodsells Family Law

At Goodsells, we welcome the anticipated reforms to divorce law. Anything that makes divorce a smoother, less acrimonious process can only be a good thing.

If you are thinking of divorce, don’t wait. Talk to a solicitor today who can guide and assist you through the process, whenever the time is right for you to do so.

To find out more, complete our online contact form, call Donna Goodsell at Goodsells Family Law on 020 7622 2221 or email enquiries@goodsellssolicitors.co.uk.

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