Couples looking for a no-fault divorce under the Divorce, Dissolution and
Separation Bill, which The Law Society says will bring divorce into the 21st
century, will have to wait until Autumn 2021.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland told MPs that although the proposed
legislation has concluded its journey through the House of Commons, it won’t
come into effect until Autumn 2021 “because time needs to be allowed for
careful implementation”.

Margaret Heathcote, National Chair for Resolution, who have campaigned for
a reform of the divorce process for decades, acknowledged that the reform
will help couples “resolve matters as constructively and amicably as possible,
minimising the impact on any children they may have.”

What is the current law?

  • To get divorced in England and Wales, the current law dictates you must meet
    the following criteria:
    You’ve been married for more than one year (at the time the divorce
    petition is sent to court)
  • Your relationship has broken down permanently
  • Your marriage is legally recognised in the United Kingdom

You will need to demonstrate that the relationship has irretrievably broken
down in at least one of these five ways:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • Separated for at least two years (if both parties consent to the
    divorce)
  • Separated for at least five years (if one party doesn’t consent to the
    divorce)

What changes will come in?

Described by FT Adviser as “the biggest shake up in divorce law for over 50
years”, the new bill means that from Autumn 2021 couples that are separating
will be able to seek a no-fault divorce.

The modernised law means that:

  • In order to get divorced, parties can simply state that the
    relationship has broken down rather than having to apportion blame
    (e.g. adultery, unreasonable behaviour, etc.)
  • Unless it’s on the basis of legal validity, jurisdiction, fraud, coercion or procedure, it won’t be possible to make an objection to the decision to divorce
  • As for timing, the minimum time period from date of petition to Decree Nisi (Conditional Divorce Order) will be 20 weeks, plus a further six weeks before applying for Decree Absolute (Final Divorce Order)

For legal advice on divorce and all family law matters, please contact us on
01992 892 214 or info@townsendfamilylaw.co.uk

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