The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 represents the biggest reform of divorce law in 50 years. The aim behind the reform is to reduce conflict between divorcing and separating couples who
are ending a marriage or civil partnership. The reforms will come into force on 6th April 2022.

Currently, the grounds for divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership is that the marriage or civil partnership has irretrievably broken down. There is a requirement to demonstrate one of five “facts”: adultery, behaviour, desertion, or a relevant period of separation (two years or five years).

These facts represent “fault”, particularly where adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour are concerned. These “fault” criteria have contributed to a blame culture between separating parties, fuelling the distress and upset for the parties and their family. The blame culture can lead to the later discussions about financial matters or children becoming more difficult and contentious.

Key Changes

  1. The requirement to provide evidence of behaviour or separation will be replaced by a Statement of Irretrievable Break Down.
  2. A Respondent would no longer be able to defend a divorce or dissolution application or dispute a “fact” in normal circumstances.
  3. A new option of a mutual joint application. One spouse alone may initiate the legal process of divorce or dissolution, or by agreement the parties may make a joint application. Joint applications can change to sole applications, in the event the other party changes their mind.
  4. The current stages of a divorce and dissolution Application (Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute) will be retained, but a new minimum time frame of 26 weeks will be introduced where possible. The application for Decree Absolute may be postponed until such time as an agreed financial settlement is reached.

These changes seek to remove the blame culture often seen by parties, particularly when citing unreasonable behaviour and remove some of the acrimony associated with it.

These changes may prevent practices being misused or abused by parties choosing to continue their coercive and controlling behaviour by unreasonable delay.

Divorce law will move towards online digital proceedings. This will further streamline the process and allow the parties to achieve their mutual goals with less acrimony.

These reforms retain what is considered to work well in existing divorce law and will help to resolve difficulties more amicably.


How can we help?

To discuss how Humphries Kirk’s family law team may be able to assist you please contact Margaret Baker (Partner), Kay Levene (Partner), Leanne Weatherill (Partner), Darren Francis (Solicitor and author of this article), Debbie Roper (Associate) or Michell Holt (Paralegal). We have expertise in all our offices.

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