Preparing for no-fault divorce
The provisions of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (DDSA 2020) finally come into effect on 6 April 2022 after a long journey through Parliament. The changes have been long-awaited by family lawyers, but how will they work in practice?
This event has been referred to as the biggest reform of divorce law in England and Wales for 50 years. It will remove fault from the formal divorce / dissolution process, meaning that separating couples will no longer have to ‘blame’ the other or wait for 2 years for a divorce by consent.
Proceedings issued before 6 April 2022 will continue under the pre-DDSA 2020 procedure.
What are the key changes made by DDSA 2020?
With effect from 6 April 2022, changes introduced by DDSA 2020 include:
Currently, the sole ground for divorce or dissolution is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This has to be established by proving one or more of the five facts under MCA 1973, s 1(2) (or the four facts under CPA 2004, s 44(5)), ie around behaviour or separation. This will often involve the petitioner relying on fault allegations (adultery or behaviour), not always because that is the real cause of the breakdown, or because they want to blame their spouse/civil partner, but because the alternative is to wait at least two years for a consent divorce. DDSA 2020 replaces this with a simple requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown, commonly referred to as ‘no-fault divorce’. While the provisions in DDSA 2020 will not remove the upset and distress that is inevitably associated with divorce, it will help to minimise it.
Under DDSA 2020 there will be no option to defend a divorce or dissolution proceedings and the court must take the statement that the marriage or civil partnership has broken down irretrievably as conclusive evidence that it has and make a divorce order or dissolution order, ie the court will not look into whether the irretrievable breakdown has been proved. The only grounds on which a divorce or dissolution may be disputed are:
- as to the validity or subsistence of the marriage or civil partnership, or
- as to the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the proceedings
For the first time, a divorce, dissolution or separation application may be filed by either or both parties to the marriage or civil partnership, ie a joint application may be made. In joint applications, both parties will apply for their divorce, dissolution or (judicial) separation application together and be equally responsible for the application. They will be known as ‘applicant one’ and ‘applicant two’, rather than the applicant and respondent as in sole applications. Keelys can apply on your behalf through the online divorce portal.
New minimum time frame
DDSA 2020 introduces a new minimum time frame for proceedings. Once the application has been issued, there will then be a minimum 20-week period from the date on which the application was issued before the applicant (or joint applicants) can apply to the court for it to consider the making of a conditional order of divorce or dissolution. This gives the parties a period of time to reflect on the decision to proceed with a divorce or dissolution and to try and resolve any arrangements regarding children and finances. As with the pre-DDSA 2020 procedure, there must be a minimum six-week period after the grant of a conditional order before the final order can be applied for.
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Call us on 01543 420000 or visit https://www.keelys.co.uk/contact-us/ for more details and to put your mind at ease.