It has been a long time coming, but the new ‘No Fault’ divorce law will start on 6 April 2022. The old law, which required couples to cite one of the five grounds for divorce including the fault-based allegations will be removed all together. 

So how does the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (DDSA) change the way couples can now divorce?

  • You no longer need to provide evidence of ‘conduct’ or ‘separation’ facts
  • The new law removes the ability to defend (a few exceptions) the applicant’s decision to divorce or end the civil partnership
  • Both parties to the marriage can now make a joint application to end their marriage
  • The length of time it takes to get a divorce is extended from 4 months to around 7 months
  • The names of the parties are changing as well as what the applications are called
  • All applications will now be dealt with online. 

The new ‘No Fault’ Divorce law terminology: 

Application replaces the old term Petition, which is document submitted to the court to apply for a divorce. 

The Applicant replaces the term Petitioner, historically this has been the person who issues the application to the court for a divorce. Although the term respondent shall remain as the person who is the other party to the court proceedings. 

Conditional Order will now replace the term Decree Nisi. A document that states that the court does not see any reason why the parties cannot divorce. 

Final Order will replace the term Decree Absolute. The legal document that ends the marriage or civil partnership. 

Reasons for the breakdown of a marriage

The only reason for the breakdown of the marriage will now be that the relationship has broken down irretrievably. What this means is that you will no longer have to justify the reason why the marriage has broken down to the court, the court will simply accept that it has been the decision of the applicant(s) that they no long wish to be married.  This takes away the ill-feeling of having to provide fault-based allegations against the other party, if you wanted the divorce proceedings to commence straight away. 

What the new law also provides is that couples can make a joint application for a divorce. Removing the responsibility on one party to issue the application. This is a new and positive approach to divorce, which acknowledging that often the decision to end a marriage is a joint one supported by both parties. 

It is possible to switch from a joint application to a sole one if it is not progressing efficiently. This can only happen at the conditional and final order application stages.

Once an application has been issued by the Court there will be a 20-week period before the conditional order application stage. At this point, the applicant or both applicants can apply jointly for a conditional order. 

There is then a six-week wait before either applicant can apply for the conditional order to be made final. If the divorce is a joint application, the other applicant must first give 14 days’ notice to the other of their intention to make the order final.

What does the new law mean if you are intending to start divorce proceedings before the end of March 2022?

The last date for applications under the old system is 31 of March 2022 at 4pm and applications under the new law will not be accepted until 10 am on the 6th of April. 

If you are considering issuing proceedings for divorce and the timing of any financial settlement is important, then we would recommend you issue before the 31 March 2022. The reason being, that because of the new timeframe, obtaining a consent order, implementing any financial settlement would be delayed. You cannot apply have a consent order approved by the court until the date of the Decree Nisi or what will be the Conditional Order has been pronounced. Under the new system this will mean you will not get an approved Consent Order for around 6 months. 

The purpose of a longer timeframe is to encourage parties to consider whether divorce is really what they want; allowing the couple time to reflect and possibly work on their issues before resorting to divorce. However, if you have been separated for some time and are ready to implement a financial settlement, waiting for the new divorce procedure might delay matters unnecessarily. 

We know all of this is complicated, and so if you would like to talk it over with one of our expert family lawyers, just get in touch. We are always happy to talk things through and advise you which procedure is best for you and your family. However, please do not delay, the final date for applications under the old procedure is 31 March 2022.