In April this year, the law regarding divorce is set to change to allow couples to divorce without any blame attaching to either party.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has been given Royal Assent and is set to be implemented in April 2022.
What is the current situation?
It is currently the case that to obtain a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership, one party may need to allege unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion to show that the relationship has irretrievably broken down.
Critics of the existing system say that assigning blame or fault does not help a couple reach agreement over all the issues that need to be addressed during a divorce or dissolution, such as agreements for children and financial affairs.
Where children are involved, it is particularly important to try and reduce conflict and animosity so that a couple can work together to parent them effectively.
What will change when the new Act comes into effect?
When the new Act comes into force, a couple will be able to state that their relationship has irretrievably broken down and request a divorce or dissolution.
They will be able to put forward a joint statement stating this or alternatively one of them can make the allegation. No further evidence will be needed, so there will not be a requirement to show any fault.
Applications for a divorce will be able to be made online, with no need for the other party to defend the petition.
Once a divorce application has been made, the applicant will need to wait 20 weeks after the application has been served on the other party.
After this, they will be able to apply for a conditional order. Six weeks after receipt of the conditional order, a final order can be applied for. The timescale is designed to give the parties time to reflect on their decision.
When should you divorce?
You may want to go ahead with a divorce or dissolution now, or you may wish to consider if you should wait until the new Act becomes law.
If you have recently separated from your spouse or civil partner and they do not want a divorce or dissolution, then in theory you might have to wait five years if they have not committed adultery, unless you are willing to allege unreasonable behaviour.
However, if you were to wait until the new Act comes in, you would not have to make any allegations as to behaviour or wait any longer for a divorce or dissolution.
What else needs to happen in a divorce or dissolution?
It is important to deal with other issues such as financial affairs and children’s agreements as well as the actual divorce or dissolution. Your solicitor may advise you to wait until you have a financial agreement or child arrangements agreement in place until you finalise your divorce or dissolution.
This information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking full legal advice on specific facts and circumstances.