The Wilkes Partnership
The divorce process has recently been given what is described as the ‘biggest shake up of laws in 50 years’.
Under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 effective from 6 April 2022, petitioners seeking to dissolve their marriage are no longer required to give a reason for applying for divorce. This has become known as the ‘no fault divorce’.
Divorce applications are now to be submitted to the Court based on the statement that 'the marriage has broken down irretrievably'. The Court shall take this statement as conclusive evidence in support of granting the parties a divorce.
So, what does the new law mean for clients and practitioners?
The Law Gazette reported a decrease in the number of people seeking a divorce last year and a predicted surge in divorce applications following the new law which proved itself to be true. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service confirmed it received around 3,000 divorce applications during the first week of the new law coming into effect, compared to averages of 2,072 applications a week last year.
The drop in number of applications last year could be linked to people considering it beneficial to wait for the no fault new system and not engaging in what some may describe as the 'blame game'. This reasoning could explain some commentator’s prediction of a surge in divorce applications.
Our view is that we may see a slight upward increase for those who have been waiting for the new law. However, when clients decide to divorce it is usually a difficult decision reached after much thought and deliberation and the new law will have little overall impact on clients making a hasty decision to bring their marriage to an end. Careful consideration will still be required to address financial matters and arrangements for children.
For practitioners and from my early experience, submitting the new online divorce applications is a far simpler and streamlined process. Some clients have expressed a wish to wait a while to see the new system working and to ensure any teething problems are resolved.
It is hoped that by removing the requirement for proof of a breakdown of marriage, clients who are already in challenging circumstances may avoid further acrimony within the relationship, particularly where there are children involved.
It is of course very early stages of implementing divorce cases under the new legislation and there may be practical issues raised as the process unfolds.
Please contact our experienced family team if you require assistance in connection with divorce proceedings and/or financial and children matters; we will be happy to assist.