From April 2022, the biggest change to divorce laws in almost fifty years is set to be introduced, with the main intention being the removal of the requirement for one party to blame their spouse for the breakdown of their marriage.
The key intended changes are:-
- There will remain only one ground for divorce; being that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down’;
- There will no longer be a requirement to prove the breakdown of the marriage (such as adultery or behaviour), only to confirm it has taken place. This as a result will prevent a divorce petition from being defended;
- It will become possible to issue a joint application, rather than one party divorcing the other. A sole application will also remain available;
- There will be changes to the current terminology, including ‘Decree Nisi’ being replaced by a ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ becoming a ‘Final Order’;
- A stay of at least 20 weeks between issuing the divorce application and applying for the Conditional Order will help to ensure that couples do not rush their divorce and can consider whether it is right for them to end their marriage. The 6 week period between Conditional Order and Final Order will remain.
Some key questions remain as to how the changes will work in practice, including how the Court shall address costs and what may happen in the event one party withdraws from a joint application. However, overall, the proposed changes appear to be very much welcome and a positive step towards encouraging separating couples to remain amicable towards once another, which can only be of benefit, particularly when there are other issues to address including finances and arrangements for children.