The long awaited reform in relation to the Divorce procedure is due to come into force on the 6th April 2022. This new procedure will bring into play long awaited changes to this area of law which has not changed since the 1970s.
The change to this long-standing procedure was largely initiated by the case of Owens and Owens in 2018. In this case, Tina Owens lost her Court battle to divorce her husband, meaning that she had to remain married to him, against her wishes, until the couple had been separated for five years, so she could Divorce her husband without his consent.
Certain other countries have been using the no fault Divorce approach for a number of years and the law in the UK has been criticised for being outdated and potentially causing conflict between parties when it is not needed. As the law stands at present, in order to Divorce your spouse, you would need to rely on one of the five facts which are namely unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, separation of two years or separation of five years. Using certain of these facts inevitably blames the other party and if your spouse disagrees with the fact you have used then they can contest the Divorce and potentially prevent it.
You will no longer be required to choose a fact upon which to base your Divorce such as the regularly used ‘unreasonable behaviour’ of your spouse, or ‘adultery’, or ‘separation of two or five years’. All you will need to demonstrate to the Court is that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the relationship. This will hopefully mean that divorcing parties will focus their minds more on resolving other issues more amicably such as the matrimonial finances and the arrangements for the children and in some cases may even promote reconciliation. The new procedure will avoid either party having to lay blame with the other party as to why the relationship has come to an end.
The Decree Nisi will now be termed a Conditional Order and the Decree Absolute a Final Order. The Petitioner will now be termed the Applicant. However, of more importance, there will be the introduction of joint applications to the Court which means that both parties can agree that the relationship has irretrievably broken down and make the application for Divorce jointly.
The new procedure removes the ability to contest a Divorce, Dissolution or Separation and introduces a new minimum period of twenty weeks from the start of the Proceedings to when the Conditional Order (Decree Nisi) can be made. The six-week period between what used to be called Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute will remain the same, but will now be referred to as the Conditional Order thus making the procedure from start to finish 26 weeks.
The importance of the new procedure means that there will be no more blame laid at the feet of either party. It will hopefully make the procedure much more amicable. There will be little need for either party to worry about their partner contesting the Divorce or Dissolution which will inevitably save costs and stress. If the procedure runs smoothly in your particular case, then it is hoped that you will be Divorced within six months.
In relation to resolving the Finances, the rules regarding this will remain the same and we as your solicitors will guide you through this process, but in any event, we always hope to achieve resolution of the finances before we apply for the Final Order (Decree Absolute) so that both the Divorce and the Finances tie up nicely together at the end.
Any Divorce Applications which are proceeding through the Court at present under the old scheme will be unaffected and will continue to follow the old procedure until their conclusion. However, the new rules are firm in that from the 6th April 2022 onwards, any Divorce Applications, Dissolution Applications or Nullity Applications will follow the new procedure.
There is no doubt that the no fault Divorce procedure will appeal to many couples who have already decided that their relationship has come to an end and if you would like to obtain further advice on the new procedure, or to commence your Proceedings, then please do not hesitate to make contact with us to speak with one of our dedicated Family Law Advisors. We offer a free half an hour of advice in the first instance and thereafter offer fixed fees and the ability to pay by way of standing order on a monthly basis via a payment plan.