No Fault Divorce Laws Almost Here

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Coming into effect on 6th April, the new No fault divorce laws are set to transform and reform existing divorce laws in the UK. Whilst specialists in divorce law can give detailed guidance on the changes, here we provide an overview of why the laws have come into place and what you can expect with the new rules. 

What is the new No Fault Divorce legislation? 

Officially named the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 the new divorce process removes the concept of fault in divorce proceedings. Considered to be one of the biggest changes to UK divorce law in decades, the idea it is to remove the effects of divorcing parties apportioning blame. The removal of this part of the process seeks to reduce the negative effects on the former couple and any dependents involved in a divorce. 

What does it mean for divorce? 

The major impact of removing ‘blame’ means it is not necessary to cite responsibility on one partner for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead of having to identify a reason, for example, unreasonable behaviour or adultery, you can simply state that the marriage broke down irretrievably. Along with married couples, the new laws will also apply to civil partnerships. 

The existing divorce processes

At the moment, if you are divorcing in England or Wales, the petitioner in the divorce must specify the grounds for the marriage breakdown by highlighting the conduct of the other partner. There are five possible grounds of divorce, including: 

  • Adultery 
  • Unreasonable behaviour such as violence or abusiveness 
  • Desertion (considered so if your partner has left the marital home for at least two of the last 2.5 years) 
  • Two years living apart with consent 
  • 5 years separation where one party did not consent

Presently, these options do not make way for a swift and amicable separation. In addition, when blame is apportioned, further agreements on children’s living arrangements, maintenance payments and marital assets could be biased in the ‘blameless’ party’s favour, it has been argued. The tangible benefits of no-fault divorce are believed to be a quicker and easier process that is less expensive than traditional divorces. 

Key changes to the law 

The key changes you can expect from the new Act are as follows: 

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  • Joint applications –couples can jointly apply for a divorce, which straightaway encourages a more harmonious process from the start. 
  • Cooling off period – there will be a 20-week period from the beginning of an application to a Conditional Order and a further six weeks to a Final Order. This means that although a divorce will take around 6 months to complete, there is ample time for parties to reflect on their decisions. 
  • The removal of the requirement to state one of the five grounds for divorce. Couples will provide a legal statement of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This been introduced to progress the divorce faster than the separation periods of two and five years which have often resulted in a more drawn-out procedure.
  • A change in terminology – there will be only two stages of divorce known as a ‘Conditional Order’ and the second stage known as a ‘Final Order’.  
  • The removal of contesting the reason for a divorce from the responding party which has previously proved to be a lengthy and costly process. 

Conclusion 

Only time will tell what the conclusions and results will be from the new no fault divorce laws, but what we know so far is that that the intentions behind the new rules are aimed to bring about more positive effects for all parties involved in divorces

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