Government Announces No-fault Divorce Will Not Come into Force in 2021

It has been announced that the introduction of no-fault divorce has been delayed until 6 April 2022 at the earliest.

No-fault divorce was originally planned to be brought into effect this Autumn as a part of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, but the various changes that need to be made to divorce law are not ready to be introduced.

This news will come as a blow to many couples, as it has now been over 12 months since the legislation was passed following years of campaigners calling for these reforms.

What is no-fault divorce?

Under the current law, couples who want to separate need to rely on one or more reasons which prove that their relationship has irretrievably broken down.

This has, understandably, drawn plenty of criticism for being an outdated approach to separation. In many cases, there is no real conflict between a couple, and their relationship has simply run its course and both parties have drifted apart.

This is where no-fault divorce will come in. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will:

  • Keep the sole ground of irretrievable breakdown of the relationship
  • Remove the requirement to establish a reason, or reasons, to prove irretrievable breakdown
  • Update the existing language regarding divorce
  • Introduce joint applications where a couple agrees that a relationship has irretrievably broken down
  • Remove the ability to contest a divorce, dissolution and separation
  • Introduce a minimum 20 weeks waiting period from the start of proceedings to when the ‘Conditional Order’ can be made
  • Keep the 6-week period between the Conditional Order and when the Final Order can be made

Why has no-fault divorce been delayed?

Courts minister Chris Philip MP has said that this year’s indicative target for the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act was always ambitious. This is due to the fact that divorce law has not been significantly changed for over 50 years.

The changes that need to be made include amendments to court rules, new practice directions for people bringing and defending divorce claims and an implementation of a new online digital divorce service.

These changes also need to be consulted on and thoroughly tested before they are introduced. The government is still at the consultation stage, which is why the date has been pushed back until April 2022 at the earliest.

Chris Philp MP stated that, “the Ministry of Justice is committed to ensuring that the amended digital service allows for the smooth transition from the existing service which has reformed the way divorce is administered in the courts and improved the service received by divorcing couples at a traumatic point in their lives.

“Following detailed design work, it is now clear that these amendments, along with the full and rigorous testing of the new system ahead of implementation, will not conclude before the end of the year.”

What does the delay mean for couples who want to get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution?

Many couples may have been waiting for the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill before getting a divorce, but this delay will likely change those plans.

Our experienced divorce solicitors recommend that, in most instances, it is not worth waiting for the introduction of no-fault divorce. While a target date of 6 April 2022 has been set, there is no guarantee that there are not going to be further delays in the future. If there is no significant risk of a disruptive dispute arising over a divorce or dissolution, it will be in your and your family’s best interests to proceed as normal.

There may be certain situations where you are concerned about how your partner will react to the prospect of divorce or dissolution, which may lead to disputes over money, property and arrangements for your children. If this is the case, our divorce solicitors are on hand to provide practical advice about your options moving forwards.

Consult our no-fault divorce solicitors in Bournemouth

At Preston Redman, our family law team have extensive expertise in divorce and separation matters, including in relation to no-fault divorce. Our team combine professional family law knowledge with a friendly service, prioritising your personal interests and those of your children.

Amongst our extensive expertise, we are members of the Law Society Family Law Advanced Accreditation Scheme and Tim Flower is an accredited specialist of the Family Law Panel. Two members of our team, Mark Hensleigh and Helen Davies, are members of Resolution and Mark is also a qualified mediator.

For further information, please contact a member of our team by giving us a call at our office in Bournemouth, or emailing office@prestonredman.com.