A new divorce law which will make it easier and less stressful for many couples to get a divorce has been delayed to 6 April 2022.
No-Fault divorce was originally supposed to start in Autumn 2021, so this is a delay of around 8-10 months. The government has cited technical difficulties in implementing the changes and getting the new digital divorce system up and running. After all, this is the first major change to divorce law in 50 years.
The delays will be disappointing to many, but will it affect whether you can get divorced?
The new no-fault divorce law will remove the requirement for couples to provide reasons for separating (such as adultery) when filing their divorce application. The rules will be similar for civil partnership dissolutions.
Despite the delay, in our experience, the vast majority of couples are able to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution without having to worry about problems arising.
In most cases, so long as both spouses agree to the divorce, the court will not examine their reasons too closely.
Only couples who are concerned that their partner may object to the divorce and take them to court are likely to be affected. However, for others, being able to get divorced without pointing fingers or placing blame will still be important even if it does not ‘technically’ stop them from proceeding. So, it is very understandable to be dismayed by this announcement.
How is divorce law changing?
At the moment, couples who want to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution must file an application (called a ‘petition’) at court stating that the relationship has irretrievably broken down due to one or more of the following reasons:
- Adultery (not available for civil partnership dissolution)
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Desertion for at least two years
- Separation for at least two years with the consent of both parties
- Separation for at least five years, no consent needed
Only one person is allowed to make the divorce petition – the other person is the ‘respondent’, or the person who has been blamed for the issues in the marriage.
This law dates back to the 1970s, so is considered out-of-date. Nowadays, people get divorced for all sorts of reasons, often because they simply drift apart or fall out of love.
As most divorces are mutual decisions, there is no need to place blame and it can sometimes stir up unnecessary conflict.
However, if one party disagrees with the reasons for divorce or they do not want to get divorced, they can object to the petition and drag their spouse to court, which can be stressful and expensive. In some cases – such as the high-profile case of Tini Owens in 2018 – it can even prevent couples from getting divorced.
In 2020, it was announced that the law was changing. No-fault divorce will remove the need to provide reasons for the divorce and couples will be allowed to submit joint applications, removing any implication of blame. It will also become much harder for one party to object to the divorce.
No-fault divorce was originally scheduled to start in autumn 2021, however, it has been delayed to 6 April 2022.
Why has no-fault divorce been delayed?
The government has said that the original goal of introducing no-fault divorce in autumn 2021 was ‘ambitious’. There are still many procedural changes that need to be made, including:
- Changes to the family court process
- New practice directions to guide people bringing and defending divorce claims
- The development and testing of a new online digital divorce service
Should you wait for no-fault divorce to start in April 2022?
If you and your partner are both on the same page about getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership, there is probably no reason to wait until next April.
Although you may prefer to get a divorce without having to place any blame, putting your happiness and the needs of your children first is essential. Remember, the court will usually allow any divorce or dissolution that both parties agree to, regardless of the reasons provided.
You may be worried about issues arising in relation to childcare and co-parenting as well as the division of your money and property. These problems would exist whether no-fault divorce was in force or not because finances and arrangements for children are worked out separately to the process of severing your legal relationship. So, it is not worth waiting for no-fault divorce to sort out these issues.
Our divorce solicitors can help with all the legal aspects of getting a divorce, including financial and children arrangements. If you do have any worries, we can provide friendly, practical advice about your options.
Getting divorced in 2021?
Make sure your divorce is fair so you can focus on the future. Our specialist divorce solicitors can make sure you and your children (if you have any) get the outcome you need to move on with your life with confidence.