Currently, if you want to divorce you need to rely on one of the following five facts:
Unreasonable behaviour of the respondent
Adultery by the respondent
2 years’ separation with the respondent’s consent
5 years’ separation
All this is to change from April 2022 with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 coming into force. This amends the existing divorce laws relating to a no-fault divorce. There will no longer be the requirement to rely on unreasonable behaviour or adultery. There will be no need to assign blame to a party. Either the petitioner or both parties can make a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down; the parties have the opportunity to file a joint petition. The statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down and can only be contested on the basis of jurisdiction, validity of the marriage, fraud, coercion, or procedural compliance.
Parties will continue to be bound by the existing law that a petition for divorce cannot be filed with in the first year of marriage. The two stage process will continue with Decree Nisi being replaced by a “conditional order” and the decree absolute being replaced by a” final order”.
The new law is aimed at removing conflict and means that parties do not have to wait for two years to petition for divorce on a no blame basis.
So what are the benefits of the changes to the divorce law?
The new law will avoid contested divorce proceedings allowing parties to focus their time and resources on addressing child and financial arrangements. Conflict will serve to hinder discussions.
What if parties want to reach a financial settlement before starting the divorce process?
If parties reach a financial agreement but wish to wait until April 2022 to file a no fault petition, the terms of the agreement can be set out in a deed of separation with a view to incorporating the terms in a consent order upon the granting of a conditional order.
There must be careful consideration given to the drafting of a deed and legal advice is advisable.
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