Thinking about getting divorced? Change is coming!

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Thinking about getting divorced? Change is coming!

The current Divorce law has long been criticised for being out-dated given that very little has changed since the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 was introduced. The concept of divorce is viewed much differently now than it was then, with more and more couples divorcing. However simply deciding that the marriage has come to an end is not sufficient for the Courts to grant a divorce.

Under the current legislation, when applying for a divorce, a Petitioner (the spouse applying for the divorce) will need to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and must rely on 1 or more of the following 5 ‘facts’:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 years’ separation (with consent)
  • 5 years’ separation (without consent)

Unless divorcing on the basis of at least 2 years’ separation, blame must be placed on the other spouse. This understandably leads to further conflict between couples and can often make an acrimonious separation even more difficult. Or, if neither party is to blame for the breakdown of the marriage, the parties must wait 2 years to be able to rely on 2 years’ separation with consent, meaning that parties are unable to move on with their lives.

Another issue is that under the current legislation, a spouse can contest a divorce and even prevent the divorce from going ahead, forcing the petitioning spouse to stay in a marriage they do not want to be in.

However, long-awaited change is coming. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is due to come into effect 6th April 2022 to  reform the current law. Under the new legislation, blame will not have to be apportioned and couples will even have the option to apply for a divorce on a joint basis, by simply citing that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and will no longer have to rely on any of the 5 ‘facts’ above.

In addition, a spouse will no longer have the ability to contest a divorce as they can under the current legislation.

The new legislation will also see a change in the language used in divorce proceedings.  The Decree Nisi will now be called a Conditional Order and the Decree Absolute will be called a Final Order. The spouse applying for the divorce will be  known as the Applicant rather than the Petitioner.

It is hoped that the new legislation will mean that divorcing couples will experience less animosity and lessen the emotional impact of dealing with a separation, to allow them to deal with other important elements, such as children matters and matrimonial finances.

If you are thinking about getting divorced, please contact our Family team on 0344 412 4348.

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