26 Jul 2021

Family & Matrimonial

No-fault divorce reforms delayed until 2022

Last month the government confirmed the date which the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into force, 6 April 2022. The new no-fault divorce law was originally due to be implemented in the autumn of 2021.

Leah Thomas, a senior associate solicitor in our Family & Matrimonial department at Harding Evans, looks at why the delays have come about and the impact these delays could have on clients.

The campaign for no-fault divorce

The campaign to bring about no-fault divorce has been running for many years, championed by Members of Resolution, the association of family lawyers. Described by the Law Society as ‘bringing UK divorce law into the 21st century’, the new law is being welcomed as a huge step forward.

Under the present system, anyone wanting to divorce before they have been separated for two years must prove either that their spouse committed adultery or behaved unreasonably, which often serves to increase tensions between the two parties. The new legislation will mean that instead of having to attribute blame for the breakdown of the relationship, a couple can mutually cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the sole grounds for wanting a divorce.

 

Online Delays

Following a response to a parliamentary question on the progress of implementing the Act, it was confirmed that this further delay was unfortunate but necessary to ensure that all required changes have been made to Her Majesty’s Court Service’s online divorce service system. These changes include new rules, new procedures and new court forms in addition to the amendments in the online system.

Ministers stressed the importance of getting the procedural rules right and confirmed that following detailed design work, it had become clear that with the amendments required to the online system, along with time to undertake full and rigorous testing of the new system prior to implementation, this would not conclude before the end of this year.

 

Looking to the future

Whilst a further delay to the change is frustrating for those who have championed these changes, as well as practitioners and their clients, this fixed date for the introduction of no-fault divorce does now at least provide more certainty for everybody. Solicitors will now be in a position to provide clients with more advice about their options and the timescales involved.

If you have separated, you should always consult a solicitor immediately.

Leah Thomas is a senior associate solicitor in our Family & Matrimonial department at Harding Evans and knows how stressful and emotionally draining divorce can be. Our expert and friendly team can advise you on all aspects of getting divorced and will help to minimise the stress and upset that inevitably comes with ending a marriage. For a confidential discussion about your situation, please contact the Family Law team on 01633 244233 or email hello@hevans.com.

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