Tasha Bevan-Stewart and Brigitta-Lizel Danso, in our leading Family Law team, highlight a further delay for No Fault Divorce reforms but look ahead as the Government confirms a much-awaited date.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame, will come into force on 6 April 2022.
Family lawyers and their clients have been awaiting notice of this key date. Expectations were that the new legislation would come into force around autumn this year, but the Government describes this as an ‘ambitious target.’
The Government provided an explanation for the delay: "Now that the detailed design work has started to adapt the Family Procedure Rules and Practice Directions, which will allow the family court forms and online digital divorce service to be updated accordingly, it is clear that this work will take longer than anticipated. The new system will also need rigorous testing before it is implemented to ensure a smooth transition.
As the biggest reform to divorce law in 50 years, it is important that the Government takes time to get this right as both practitioners and separating families are relying on no fault divorce to reduce the conflict between couples at an already difficult time. The Government committing to a date provides certainty, and practitioners are now better placed to advise their clients."
Nigel Shepherd, the former Chair of Family Law body Resolution, who has spearheaded the call for No Fault Divorce over many years, said today: “Whilst any delay is disappointing, we do now have certainty over the introduction of this important reform, and will be able to advise clients accordingly.”
He added that family lawyers’ experience of using online forms and processes has not been “universally positive, and so it is essential that the IT is fit for purpose in order to ensure the new divorce process works the way it is intended.”
The delay, whilst unfortunate, will perhaps not be a surprise against the backdrop of the pandemic and Brexit and will also allow practitioners to become acquainted with the new forms and procedures in advance of the 6 April 2022 date.
The impact for clients seeking to settle the formalities of their divorce amicably will be significant when the legislation does take effect, but the wait will be a little longer than expected.
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This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.