What Has Happened?
On 6 April 2022, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 came into force. The Act has been described as the biggest shake-up in divorce law for more than half a century as it introduces the no-fault divorce in England and Wales.
The Old Law
Prior to the coming into force of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, the party seeking a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership needed to establish that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. To prove this, the party seeking divorce needed to apportion blame on their spouse for committing adultery, having unreasonable behaviour or for committing desertion. The parties could also seek a decree for divorce if they had not cohabited for a minimum of 2 years (provided that both parties agree to the divorce) or for 5 years if the partner did not agree with the divorce. If the party against whom a divorce decree was sought did not agree with the divorce, they could have contested it. Therefore, the divorce proceedings are inherently distressful for both parties. The fault-oriented regime added unnecessary pressure, as parties could face staying married to a person they no longer loved for half a decade. This was making the break between the spouses unnecessarily long, being especially burdensome for victims of domestic abuse.
The New Law
Under the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, the parties can now apply jointly for a divorce, claiming that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. There is no need to cite one of the 5 reasons for divorce. A minimum timeframe of 20 weeks has been introduced between the application being submitted and the decree for divorce being granted. The timeframe was introduced to voice the concerns that the new, quicker divorce procedure will encourage parties to divorce rather than to save the relationship.
Also, under the new legislation, it is no longer possible to contest a divorce. The only ground on which a party can contest a divorce is now jurisdiction.
A Better Way To End Matters?
The Act is a welcomed improvement as the parties will not need to engage in unnecessary conflict by apportioning blame. The legislation encourages amicable separation, which will, most likely, lead to amicable financial settlements and will motivate parents to co-parent effectively.