Couples are now able to file for divorce or civil partnership dissolution, without assigning blame. What does this mean?
Previously, if someone wished to divorce, they either had to be separated for a prescribed period of time, or they would have to show an element of fault or blame, namely the respondent had committed adultery or behaved in such a way that the petitioner could not reasonably be expected to live with them. The old law often led to conflict, even in separation cases where it was clear the marriage had broken down.
From April 6, 2022, apportioning blame or relying upon a period of separation is no longer required and, instead, the only requirement is to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership. The hope is that the new law will reduce animosity and conflict.
Some key points are:
- The new Act removes the ability of a respondent, save in very limited circumstances, to defend the decision to divorce or end the civil partnership.
- Either or both parties can make the application for divorce, with a joint application being seen as a way to reduce conflict and to show a joint decision to end the marriage.
- The Act imposes a new minimum overall timeframe of 26 weeks (six months) to provide a period of reflection, so that couples can be confident that divorce is the correct decision for them.
- In order to make the process more accessible for everyone, the Act replaces certain legal terminology with simpler language.
One key point to note, on a sole application the respondent can apply to the court for financial protection, namely to delay the decree absolute, until the court have considered their financial position but these applications cannot be made on a joint divorce application so a joint application may not necessarily work for everyone.
As with any change there will initially be some uncertainty. There are also areas where a party should consider obtaining legal advice, for example, and as highlighted above, in relation to financial provision. If you require any assistance with this, contact Stephen Smith, Principal in EMW’s Family Law Team.
The Family Law Team at EMW specialise in complex financial remedy claims, particularly those involving business owners and entrepreneurs as well as high net worth individuals.