The long-awaited reform to family law which will allow couples to begin divorce proceedings without citing blame has been further delayed, and is now set to come into force on 6th April 2022.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which received Royal Assent in June 2020, has been cited as the biggest change to divorce law in 50 years and was due to come into force in September 2021. However, this has been delayed by six months due to technical difficulties, including IT issues in relation to updating family procedure rules in the court’s processes.
Under the new rules, couples will be able to petition for divorce jointly without either person being held at fault. The petition may be made in a joint statement, or by one of the parties, and can simply state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, without the requirement of proof.
At the moment, and until the new implementation date of 6th April 2022, there is no way for couples to start divorce proceedings without citing blame to one party – unless they are separated for two years with consent, or five years without.
When petitioning for divorce, examples of conduct, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or proof of separation, is currently required to be presented, which can be emotional and upsetting.
This can create conflict where perhaps there wouldn’t otherwise have been any. With emotions already heightened, subsequent discussions regarding children and financial matters more difficult may then be more strained.
One of the main reasons campaigners have pushed for the reform to bring ‘no fault’ divorce in is to create a starting point of minimal animosity. It is hoped that as well as increasing the speed of the initial phase of divorce proceedings, couples may enter into discussions on a more neutral ground, therefore offering a greater chance of resolving matters constructively and amicably, which is positive news where children are involved.
Although the delay in divorce reform is disappointing, especially as it has already been so long-awaited, couples and the family lawyers advising them now at least have some clarity as to when the changes will be implemented. With The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 representing the biggest reform to divorce laws in 50 years, it’s important that the transition is as smooth as possible.
Regardless of your circumstances, seeking early advice around divorce is important and can provide peace of mind. An initial discussion can point you in the right direction and advise you on the way forward.
Gianna Lisiecki-Cunane is a director at O’Donnell Solicitors. Contact Gianna on 01457 761670 or email at email@example.com for a no obligation appointment.