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Divorce law: Changes for the good

The divorce law in England and Wales will change next month (April 2022), says Susannah Burley of KWW’s Family Law department. The new law replaces the provisions in the Matrimonial Causes Act which came into force in 1973.

Any divorce that is due to go through under the current law must be submitted online by 31 March 2022. After this date, couples will have to wait until 6 April 2022 to apply for their divorce under the new law.

Between 31 March and 5 April 2022, the Court will not accept new applications for divorce.

If you have yet to start your divorce petition, due to the delays that can occur when trying to get together the correct information and/or documents to support the petition, it may be sensible to wait until 6 April to submit your application for divorce under the new system.

There are five important changes coming within the new laws:

Change 1: No-fault system
Individuals will be able to rely solely on ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the reason for wanting a divorce. They won’t have to prove this with one of the five facts (separation for two years with consent; five years without consent; unreasonable behaviour; desertion or adultery). This is a positive step as previously some individuals have admitted to fabricating unreasonable behaviour because it is the easiest way to get a divorce. The impact of this will, hopefully, be a more amicable approach to divorce which reflects modern social attitudes toward separation

Change 2: Removal of possibility of contesting
Under the new law, it will no longer be possible for one party to contest the divorce. This will prevent the risk of one party delaying the process of getting a divorce until the point of five years separation. It is also likely this will avoid lengthy and expensive court battles.

Change 3: Joint applications for divorce
The new system will allow joint applications for divorce alongside the option for one party to initiate the process. This offers a mutual and less contentious option for couples who are both in agreement that a divorce should be pursued. Once again, this may remove some hostility from the process.

Change 4: Language
You may previously have heard the terms ‘decree nisi’ and ‘decree absolute’. From April 2022, however, the former will be known as a ‘conditional order’ and the latter will be known as the ‘final order’.

Change 5: Timeframes
There will be a minimum timeframe of six months from the petition stage of the process to the final divorce. This period exists to allow for the possibility of reconciliation, giving couples the time to reflect on their decision to get a divorce. There will be 20 weeks from the petition stage to the conditional order and then a further six weeks until the final order. Although, the difference in the time it takes to get divorced will not change drastically from the spring

Speak to us at KWW at the earliest opportunity if you are considering getting divorced. We will be able to advise you based on your individual circumstances and provide detailed guidance on how to proceed with your application.

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