New no-fault divorce in England and Wales from 6th April 2022.
For many years the divorce law has been based on one principle—the irretrievably breakdown of the marriage. The complication was the 5 criteria that were prescribed to prove it in the “petition” submitted to the Court. Those 5 principles were partly based on separation, 2 years by consent, or 5 years without consent. One other factor to prove was a strange Victorian principle-desertion , which no one used since this law came into effect via the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 . The other two ways to prove your entitlement , still existing until the 6th of April , are alleging adultery, and /or unreasonable behaviour. It is difficult to envisage now but initially the spouse seeking divorce was required to evidence the case, give evidence from the witness box , and be available to be cross examined , by their spouse, and often the Judge too. Later it became a paper exercise , and over time the provocation, and bad feeling created by the divorce terms were seen as damaging , particularly with children in the family affected by parental conflict , and at the very least counter-productive. Family lawyers for years have tried to move the divorce law away from one that creates more problems than it solves. At last the Divorce,Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed through Parliament, and rules created to become operational as above. Now divorce is an Application , not a petition. It can be requested by an Applicant , or both man and wife together.In effect ,there can be no defence to an application for divorce. There is a minimum overall framework of 26weeks to a Final Order , via a Conditional Order dropping the previous steps of decree nisi, and decree absolute. The time involved is provided to enable the spouses to reflect on their situation and seek to agree practical arrangements. Sometimes doing just that can take time….complications about income , assets and pensions good examples of why. When there are significant legal changes there are always transitional complications , and possibly delays. For this period patience is needed ,plus potentially professional help. Mediation can be an extremely effective answer to how to find the best pathway forward for both spouses , and the children. Time , cost , and anxiety can all be reduced dramatically by effective mediation. There really is nothing to lose, yet so so much to gain in remodelling the family under the new divorce law.