FEBRUARY 16, 2022


What is happening?

On 6 April 2022 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into effect. It is the first major change to English divorce law in nearly fifty years and introduces the concept of a ‘no fault’ divorce. Its introduction is widely welcomed by the family lawyers who have campaigned for change to our archaic and outdated laws for many years.

Why the need for change?

Under the current law the only means to commence a divorce petition immediately is to do so by relying on the fact of unreasonable behaviour or the adultery of the other party which they may be reluctant to admit. The alternative is to wait for two years to divorce on the grounds of two years separation which, even then, requires the consent of the other party.  

Whilst many couples elected to proceed with a petition on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, the so called ‘quickie divorce’, the need to apportion blame in this way would often cause un-necessary conflict at the very outset of matters.  

What happens now?  

The new law maintains the current ground for divorce which is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Instead of having to prove one of the current five facts (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion or two or five years separation) a party must simply complete a statement of ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage.  

The new law provides for a period of 20 weeks ‘cooling off’ before the first order of divorce can be applied for, and a further period of 6 weeks before that order can be made final, bringing the parties’ marriage to an end. The divorce process will therefore now take a minimum of six months to conclude not taking into account any administrative delays on behalf of the parties or the court.  

As well as introducing the concept of ‘no fault’ divorce there are other significant and welcome changes as a consequence of the act including that parties can now apply for a divorce jointly.  

There are also numerous changes in the terminology related to divorce. The divorce petition shall now be known as the application. The current divorce decrees, decree nisi, the first stage of divorce, and decree absolute, the final decree bringing the marriage to an end. are replaced with the more user friendly terms conditional order and divorce order.