Divorce law as we know it is about to change in a big way with the much awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 taking effect on 6th April 2022. Clients are asking us how this will impact upon them so we thought it would be helpful to summarise the main changes to the procedure.
Divorce proceedings issued by the Court on or before 5th April 2022 will continue to progress under the existing law. All applications must be submitted to the Court by 4pm on 31st March 2022. There will then be a week for the Court digital system to be updated to be ready for new applications as from 6th April.
The legal jargon has been changed with the new law to come into force on 6.4.2022. For example, a decree of divorce will be called a ‘divorce order’; a petition will be called an ‘application’; a ‘conditional order’ will replace Decree Nisi and a ‘final order’ will replace Decree Absolute.
Under the new law it will still be the case that a couple must be married for a minimum of 12 months before they can start divorce proceedings.
There will still be a court fee payable when making an application which is currently £593. It will still be possible to apply to waive or pay a reduced court fee where the applicant has little or no savings and get certain state benefits or have a low income.
The current law has long been viewed as being outdated and the new divorce law removes the need to allege ‘fault’ against one party for the breakdown of the marriage. Under the new law, there will be one ground for divorce with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The current 5 facts will be removed and it will no longer be possible to contest the decision to divorce.
Either or both parties to a marriage may apply to the court for a divorce order which dissolves the marriage on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. An application must be accompanied by a statement by the applicant if a single application or by the joint applicants if the application is made by both parties that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The Court dealing with the application must take the statement to be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and make a divorce order.
Under the new law, the Court should, by default, serve applications in the first instance as opposed to the current position where the applicant serves by default. Provision is now made for service by email, which is a significant change from the current law. Written notice must also be sent by post. Where the applicant requests to serve the application they must do so within 28 days after the date of issue of the application.
If an applicant does not have a postal address for the respondent, but does have an email address, the applicant will have to apply for alternative service by email alone by making a formal application for which a court fee will be payable.
A divorce order is, in the first instance, a conditional order and may not be made final before the end of the period of 6 weeks and 1 day from the making of a conditional order. The court may not make a conditional order unless in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application by one party to the marriage only, that party has confirmed to the court that they wish the application to continue or where the application is to proceed as an application by both parties to the marriage those parties have confirmed to the Court that they wish the application to continue and a party may not give confirmation for the purposes of this subsection before the end of the period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings.
Under the new law therefore the new minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and applying for a conditional order of divorce or dissolution coupled with the 6 weeks and 1 day between conditional order and final order means that divorce for most people will in future take a minimum of 6 months. It is anticipated that this period will allow for a period of refection and allow couples to resolve other issues such as children and financial arrangements. If a couple need more time to complete their divorce, the law will allow for this.
If you require advice or assistance following the breakdown of your marriage then do not hesitate to get in touch with RJT Solicitors on 01257 228027. Free 30 minute no obligation consultation with one of our experienced family solicitors.