Divorce law underwent a major change on 6th April 2022, with the introduction of no-fault divorces under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, the first major change to the system in 50 years. This was announced in September 2019 by the Justice Secretary and has been widely welcomed. This new law will allow couples to follow a more conciliatory and reflective approach, which in turn will reduce conflict and hopefully make the process more amicable for the parties involved, as well as any children.
This guide covers the changes to the law under this new legislation and discusses the important changes on the process for getting divorced as well as how long does it take to get divorced ad how long do you have to have been married to get a divorce.
Under the previous law, if a couple wishes to divorce then they had to prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down. In order to do this, they needed to rely on one of the following five “facts”:
Unless the parties were willing to wait for the separation route to apply, there was a need to blame one of the parties for the reason that the marriage has failed. Where one party disagreed with the divorce application, they could contest it through the courts and even prevent it completely in certain situations.
The fact that one party needs to be “blamed” for the breakdown of the marriage has been widely criticised as being both outdated and also making the process more adversarial, which can make resolution of contentious issues more difficult. By removing the “blame game”, it was argued that there would be less conflict between the parties, meaning that factors such as finances, property and care for the children could be the focal point. The current need to blame one of the parties is seen to unnecessarily aggravate a situation that is already likely to be fraught.
The introduction of this new system has been regarded as controversial, with some arguing that it will not protect the institution of marriage since it will make the process too easy without the need for clear reasons to end the marriage. However, the current process originated in a different time and society has evolved from this point. The law is not fit for purpose and a new process is required to support the divorcing couple in a collaborative way to resolve issues such as their finances and matters relating to children via mediation or other non-litigious methods. This is why the law needed to change.
There are various factors that are different compared to the previous system.
You may be wondering how long do you have to be married before you can get a divorce and has this changed under the new system. This has not altered and you still have to have been married for one year before you are able to start divorce proceedings.
Under the new law, there is no need to apportion blame and instead a statement has to be provided that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. What has changed is that it will no longer be necessary to prove one of the five facts for the divorce to be allowed. Parties will also be allowed to make a joint application if they agree, paving the way for a completely amicable separation, although sole applications are also possible.
A major change is that it will no longer be possible to contest the divorce, dissolution or separation.
A first question is often how quickly you can get divorced? The process following the initial application has also been amended in that the decree nisi becomes a conditional order and the decree absolute becomes the final order. There will be a 20-week timeframe between the start of the order before the decree nisi is granted, however, the six weeks between the conditional order and the final order will remain the same. This allows the parties six months to consider whether they really want the divorce to go ahead before it is finalised. This period can also be used to resolve issues relating to the couple’s finances and children.
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