Divorce laws have had their first overhaul in over 50 years. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is now in force introducing no-fault divorces for the first time in England and Wales. This has been created with the aim of decreasing conflict at an often stressful and difficult time.
This means that there is no longer a requirement for a person seeking a divorce to prove that unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or desertion has occurred. Previously this need for a ‘guilty’ party has led to increased conflict and animosity between the divorcing spouses.
The case of Owens v Owens bought increased attention to this matter and was followed with interest by lawyers, judges, and ministers as it made its way through the appeal courts to the Supreme Court. The Petitioner, Tini Owens, urged the Supreme Court to “please release me”, arguing that she should not be expected to remain with her husband of 38 years. The couple had been separated for over three years with no prospect that they would or will ever live together again.
As a result of a years long campaign by Resolution, an organisation of Family Professionals who are committed to a non-confrontational approach in all family matters, the new law finally allows couples to decide that their marriage has come to an end without the need to assign fault to one of the parties.
For the first time, divorcing spouses can jointly apply for a divorce, alongside the retained option for one person to initiate the divorce proceedings. In addition, it will no longer be possible to contest a divorce, this is as long as one party (or both in the case of a joint application) has provided a statement to the Court that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
Terms such as Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute have been replaced with Conditional Order and Final Divorce Order and there will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to the Conditional Order stage. The provisions have retained a 6-week period between the Conditional Order and Final Divorce Order.
Had these laws been in place when Tini Owens first petitioned for divorce, her husband would not have been able to prevent the divorce from taking place and she would not have gone through the arduous process of defended divorce.
The Law relating to Financial Provision on Divorce remains unaffected as this follows a separate court process. However, the parties will continue to be encouraged to seek independent legal advice before proceeding with the Final Divorce Order if financial claims on divorce have not yet been finalised.
If you would like friendly and specialist advice on your divorce, contact Jackie Jessiman directly by email email@example.com or telephone 01353 886996. Do not be put off by cost and enquire about our fixed fee divorce package to give you the confidence that you will not be faced with any hidden surprises.
This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek advice specific to your own circumstances. Fraser Dawbarns LLP are always happy to provide such advice.
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