No-fault divorce delayed

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It is coming close to a year since the legislation was passed to enable couples seeking a no-fault divorce after years of campaigning from lawyers calling for reform. The government has now decided that the implementation of no-fault default divorce has to be delayed and may not come into force in 2021. The Ministry of Justice is now looking at a commencement date of 6 April 2022 and not this autumn as was originally planned. 

It is coming close to a year that the legislation was passed to enable couples seeking a no-fault divorce after years of campaigning from lawyers calling for reform.

Officials have also begun to identify, design and build the necessary amendments to court rules and to amend the new online digital divorce service.

So what is a no-fault divorce and how does it differ from the current procedure for divorce?

A no-fault divorce will allow couples to end their marriage or civil partnership without having to blame each other for the breakdown of their relationship. Under the new law, couples will no longer have to use one of the five grounds for divorce (desertion, adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent or 5 years separation without consent) which is what is currently in place in England and Wales. 

The change in the law will simplify the process of divorce and remove the option to contest the divorce:.

The parties will only need to produce a statement of irretrievable breakdown – no blame will be apportioned

  • An application for divorce can be made jointly or by a sole applicant
  • The option of contesting the divorce will be removed
  • Terminology will change: Decree Nisi becomes a Conditional Order and Decree Absolute a Final Order.
  • There will be a period of reflection – a minimum of 20 weeks – from when the application for divorce is made to when a Conditional Order can be made. This provides a period of reflection for the parties to consider their decision.

With the delay should you still wait until the no-fault divorce is implemented?

If you are ready to divorce now, it is probably wise to continue through the current system.  There will be exceptions however, for example, if you were planning to wait until you had been separated for 5 years because you didn’t want to cause any further issues; or if you are planning to apply on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour but fear your partner will contest the divorce.

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