Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 - England & Wales

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Health Assured team

29 March 2022

On the 6th of April 2022 upcoming changes are due to come into effect with regards to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 for England & Wales only.

The changes to the existing Act are designed to replace the current requirement to provide evidence of conduct or separation facts through the five grounds for divorce. There will be a new requirement to provide a statement to the court citing ‘irretrievable breakdown’. Therefore, the current five grounds to cite for a divorce will no longer apply after the 6th of April 2022.

 

Check you qualify for a divorce

You can get divorced in England or Wales if all the following are true:

  • you’ve been married for over a year
  • your relationship has permanently broken down
  • your marriage is legally recognised in the UK (including same-sex marriage)
  • the UK is your permanent home, or the permanent home of your husband or wife

It will also be important to establish the validity of the marriage and whether it is legally recognised in England and Wales.

 

Contesting a divorce

The option to contest a divorce based on the grounds will no longer be possible, as the statement of ‘irretrievable breakdown’ provided by the applicant will be taken as conclusive evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

However, individuals can continue to challenge a divorce through the Family Courts where there has been an error or fraudulent information provided. This can be court procedural compliance issues which was a direct result of a court error, incorrect information being entered by the applicant when completing the application or suspected fraud. These matters will either stop or delay the proceedings.

How long will the court process take?

The new court procedure has been designed to reduce the overall timeframe of the divorce procedure to six months (26 weeks).

The six months (26 weeks) time frame will also have a new period of 20 weeks between the start of the proceedings and the application for a conditional order which establishes the final order and financial settlement between both parties. These 6 months will be achievable where both individuals are able to remain amicable regarding finances and come to an agreement.

By maintaining an obligated time period between the application and the conditional order, both individuals should be able to agree on the separation of finances mutually and make a joint application. Where individuals are struggling to come to an agreement, it is recommended that individuals access mediation to discuss the assets further with a trained mediator present.

Individuals can locate a mediator using the Family Mediation Association website (www.thefma.co.uk/), where you will be able to locate a mediator in your local area.

 

Changed to existing terminology?

  • Applicant’ will replace the term ‘Petitioner’
  • Conditional Order’ will replace the term Decree Nisi
  • ‘Final Order’ will replace the term Decree Absolute

 

Civil partnership

Section 3 of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 replaces section 44 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004. Similarly, to the above, this removes the requirement to establish facts or evidence of conduct. Therefore, a civil partner can apply for a dissolution with a statement that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably. The courts must take this statement as conclusive evidence that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably and make a dissolution order accordingly.

Section 4 amends sections 37 and 38 of the Civil partnership Act 2004 and inserts a new section 37A. Every dissolution order is at first a conditional order and not to be made final before the end of the prescribed period. This creates an obligated time period between stages 2 and 3 of the dissolution process to ensure individuals are able to discuss and mutually agree the separation of their finances.

 

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