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  • Overview

    Sarah Keily explains in a piece for the Times of Tunbridge Wells

    2022 sees the introduction of the long awaited no fault divorce system in England and Wales. Currently, the only way for couples to divorce immediately is to attribute blame to one party, either based on adultery or their unreasonable behaviour. If these options do not apply, couples must wait until they have been separated for two years before starting divorce proceedings and in that instance, the couple would need to be in agreement for a divorce to proceed.  

    The current rules have been criticised for creating unnecessary conflict between couples wanting an immediate divorce, by forcing one to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage, even where that may not be justified. The current law has also resulted in some people having to wait until they have been separated for five years before being able to get divorced.  

    The no fault divorce system has been introduced under The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill and will be available to use from 6 April 2022. 

    Under the new system, the need for one party to evidence the breakdown of the marriage by blaming the other party will be removed. The only fact that a couple will be able to rely on when asking the court for a divorce is the fact that their marriage has irretrievably broken down. It will not be possible for the other party to contest that statement. 

    The new system will update the language that we currently use in divorce proceedings. The ‘petitioner’ will now be the ‘applicant’, a ‘decree nisi’ will now be a ‘conditional order’ and a decree absolute will now be a ‘final order’. 

    What does this mean for divorcing couples?

    Couples will be able to start divorce proceedings immediately without having to add blame and conflict to what is already a very difficult time in their lives. This will hopefully keep matters more amicable between them and encourage a more harmonious approach to other issues arising from their separation, such as financial matters or the arrangements for children. 

    A real positive of the new system is the introduction of the option of joint applications, where a couple agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and can jointly apply for a divorce. 

    Couples will have a clearer idea on the timescale for the divorce proceedings. The new system sets a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to when the conditional order can be made and retains the six week minimum period between conditional order and final order. That means that the whole process should be concluded in around six to seven months. 

    Couples will be able to deal with the proceedings online, simplifying the process.

    The changes to the divorce law in England and Wales will not affect the way in which separating couples address financial matters or the arrangements for their children. 

    If you would like to discuss the issues detailed above, please contact Sarah Keily on 01892 701277 or sarah.keily@ts-p.co.uk. Alternatively please visit our website www.ts-p.co.uk/family

    This article first appeared in The Times of Tunbridge Wells

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