New Divorce Law - April 2022
New divorce laws will come into force from 6 April 2022
New online service for applying for a divorce available from 6 April 2022. Couples must apply under the current law by 31 March 2022 or wait for the changes to come into force.
On 6 April this year changes to the legislation on divorce will come into force. We will be launching a new online service to accommodate this change.
The old service will be unavailable from 31 March 2022 while we prepare for these changes.
Changes to divorce law
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms the legal requirements and process for divorce. The act aims to reduce the potential for conflict amongst divorcing couples by:
- removing the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse
- allowing couples to end their marriage jointly
The act also introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and application for conditional order. This provides couples with a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconsider. Where divorce is inevitable, it enables couples to cooperate and plan for the future.
It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds including jurisdiction.
If you’re getting divorced and have started your application
If you have an application saved on the current digital service and still want proceed, you’ll need to access your account and submit your application by 4pm on 31 March 2022.
Alternatively, you can wait until the new digital service is launched. If you still want to apply for a divorce, you can start your application again from 6 April 2022.
If you’ve started filling out a paper application form, you’ll need to make sure it’s received by the court by 4pm 31 March 2022. If you’re sending it in the post, you’ll need to make sure it reaches the court by that date.
If you haven’t started your application
It can take time to get the right documents together for your application. So, if you haven’t started an application yet, you may want to wait until the new services are available from 6 April 2022.
Whether you’re a solicitor or applying for a divorce yourself, remember:
- from 31 March 2022 you can no longer apply on the current paper or digital systems or access a saved digital application which is yet to be issued by the court
- from 31 March to 5 April 2022 the digital service will not accept new applications
- from 6 April 2022 the new paper and digital services will be available
Urgent applications can only be used when the issue of the divorce petition is time critical. This includes when time is critical for jurisdiction or when a freezing injunction is needed. You’ll likely need legal advice to make an application.
We’ll continue to accept urgent applications that need to be considered after the deadlines set out above and before the 6th April. We’ll issue where possible, if received by post or email, before 4pm on the 5th April.
If you’re submitting your urgent application by email, use this address: onlineDFRjurisdiction@justice.gov.uk (this inbox will not be monitored after 4pm on 5 April 2022).
Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute applications that have been issued will be saved and remain available on the service.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
What happens if my ex-partner doesn’t want a divorce?
Currently, you would need to wait for a period of 5 years separation to be granted a divorce if your ex-partner is unwilling to comply unless you are happy to apportion blame.
Under the new divorce law, you can file for divorce after 12 months of marriage regardless of whether your husband or wife agrees providing that the marriage has broken down beyond repair.
Why does the current divorce law need to change?
If you can’t or won’t allege fault, you can only get divorced once you’ve been separated for two years if both spouses agree to the divorce, or five years if one spouse refuses. Supporters of the changes argue the current system has several major flaws.
For example, if a couple wants a quick divorce without delay, they must agree between themselves as to who will “take the blame.”
Even if it’s just a legal formality, working out who this should be and the details to present to the court can be an awkward and emotional process. It can even lead to resentment that spills over into the negotiations about financial settlements and childcare.
Many find that it simply isn’t financially viable to live as two separate households for two years before starting divorce proceedings and formally reaching a financial settlement.
Another problem is with cases where one spouse no longer wants to be in the marriage but the other refuses to accept it is over.
The high bar for proving unreasonable behaviour means one spouse can often drag out the divorce until not only has the other left the marital home, but five years have passed.
Can a No-Fault Divorce be Contested?
One of the key changes to the divorce law will mean that couples cannot contest a divorce, which means that a divorce will be granted by a Judge on the basis of the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Is No-Fault Divorce Going to be Quicker?
Although no-fault divorce is going to make the process simpler for couples it will not be a quicker process.
The government has introduced a 20-week (minimum) reflection period, which means even the simplest of cases will take at least 6 months to complete from start-to-finish.
No-Fault Divorce Law Introduction
It is widely accepted amongst family law professionals that the divorce law should be changed, to allow couples to separate without having to apportion blame against their ex-partner and more importantly for some, without having to wait at least two years before they can get divorced.
The legal requirement to assign blame makes it harder for couples to reach an amicable agreement at an already difficult and often emotional time.
The introduction of no-fault divorce is the first change to the divorce law in 50 years!
The significant changes will mean that the grounds for divorce are entirely non-fault instead of a mix of both fault and non-fault, such as unreasonable behaviour.
Something that isn’t widely known is the fact that no-fault divorce will be an entirely digital process, removing the possibility for paper applications.
Key Divorce Reforms To Know About
There are many significant reforms to the divorce law that are due to come into legal affect on 6 April 2022, here is a summary of the key changes:
- Couples can make a joint application for divorce The first change is that divorce proceedings no longer have to be initiated by one partner alone. Instead, a couple can make a joint application. While that may seem like a technical measure, supporters of the new law argue that it removes an in-built imbalance that undermines attempts to split amicably.
- Minimum of 20 weeks cooling off period The law lays down a minimum allowable period of 20 weeks between the initial application and the conditional order, and another six weeks between the conditional and final orders. That means that even the smoothest divorce will take at least six months or more to complete, compared to 3-4 months under the current process..
- Divorce can be granted without blame the current list of five permissible ways to prove the breakdown of marriage has been replaced by a single mechanism. Now all that’s required is for at least one spouse to provide a legal statement to say the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This statement counts as conclusive evidence and cannot be contested.