As you may have read in the news, no-fault divorce is set to come into law following the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill receiving Royal Assent last year. From 6th April 2022, spouses will be able to end their marriage without having to provide a reason for this; they will simply be able to provide a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Why is this important?
A present, under the current legislation in order to end a marriage, whilst a party has to show the marriage has irretrievably broken down, they have to support this using 1 of the 5 facts:
- The other party has committed adultery with a person of the opposite sex
- The other party has behaved unreasonably
- The party deserted the petitioner for a period of 2 years
- The parties have been separated for a minimum period of 2 years and the other party consents to the divorce
- The parties have been separated for a minimum period of 5 years
The issue is that for most couples wishing to divorce swiftly following their separation, the most common fact available to them is that of “unreasonable behaviour”. Whilst most family solicitors will try to draft the facts of behaviour as non-contentiously as possible, case law has made it clear that the court still need to be persuaded that the marriage has broken down irretrievably due to the fact raised. It was also possible for the respondent to the divorce to contest the reason for the breakdown of the marriage, which could cause long delays in the divorce process.
From 6th April 2022, the law is changing to remove the need to refer to one of the 5 facts. As such, there will be very limited reasons to contest the divorce such as on jurisdictional grounds. A statement by one party stating that the marriage has broken down will be treated as conclusive evidence of this, though it will also be possible for parties to submit a joint petition if they wish.
However, it is important to note that the new law is not significantly speed up the divorce process as, for example, there will be a minimum of 20 weeks between issuing the divorce petition and the conditional order to allow for ‘meaningful reflection’, essentially to allow couples to consider if they wish to reconcile following issue of a petition or to allow a couple to make arrangements for the future. Thereafter, a further period of 6 weeks need to elapse between the conditional and the final order.
What steps do you need to consider?
If you have already drafted a divorce petition or wish to issue a petition based on the current legislation, these must be submitted to the Court by 31st March 2022. The court are closing the online divorce portal on this date and it will not be possible to submit any petitions for divorce online and any petitions submitted after date but before the 6th April 2022 can only be submitted if urgent.
A new portal incorporating the changes in the new legislation is expected to be available for divorce petitions submitted from 6th April 2022.
As a result of a divorce various financial claims arise for property adjustment orders, lump sum orders, spousal maintenance and in certain cases, claims against pensions.
Deciding you wish to separate and end a marriage can be a difficult and emotional period in your life, during which you may need to make important financial decisions about your future. Should you wish to have further information or obtain legal advice about a divorce or dealing with the financial claims we at Levy & Co Solicitors will be pleased to help you.
How can we help?
We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819