Senior solicitor Rebecca Ledgerwood, in our Family Law team, explains the long-awaited changes due to take effect this April.
The law regarding divorce is changing on 6 April 2022 to a solely ‘no fault’ based system.
Unlike the current system where it is possible to attribute ‘blame’ to one party for the breakdown of the relationship, going forward there will only be one reason for divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This is a change welcomed by many family law practitioners.
Within the new legislation there will be changes in terminology:
- The divorce ‘Petition’ will instead be called an ‘Application’,
- The interim stage of divorce (Decree Nisi) will be termed a a Conditional Order; and
- The final stage (Decree Absolute) will be called a Final Order.
As well as updated terminology there has been an overhaul of the procedure.
The Application will be able to be made by one spouse solely or both spouses jointly. Within any new Application, there will be a 20 week period between issuing the Application and the Conditional Order being made with a further 6 week wait before the Final Order can be made. This is in contrast with the current law whereby the only mandated period of delay is 6 weeks and 1 day between Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.
Ahead of the change in legislation, practitioners have been warned that there will be a suspension of the ‘divorce portal,’ the online platform on which divorce petitions are submitted, from 4pm on 31 March 2022.
HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) also plan to refuse to accept any paper petition lodged under the current law from that time.
This means that from 4:01pm on 31 March 2022 until 6 April 2022 individuals will not be able to commence divorce proceedings, unless there are exceptional urgent circumstances, in which case an urgent application will have to be made directly to the family court.
Anyone considering applying for a divorce where the date of applying is time-sensitive should take urgent legal advice to help them decide whether application before this cut-off date.
Family law practitioners are of course hopeful that HMTCS will ensure that the portal is functional soon from 6 April 2022.
For further information or legal advice, please contact email@example.com or call 0118 951 6800.
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.