In a special episode of the Divorce and Family Podcast, Sam Longworth, Jenny Bowden and Tim Carpenter explore the introduction of no fault divorce in England and Wales, discussing the significant changes to divorce and why these changes matter to separating couples.
On 6 April 2022, no fault divorce will be introduced in England and Wales. Couples will be able to legally separate without having to pin the blame on one person. They can also now make an application for divorce on mutual terms, and it will no longer be possible to ‘defend’ a divorce application in most cases.
This is a change in the law that has been supported by the vast majority of divorce lawyers including our team as well as Resolution, the leading family law body in England and Wales representing 6,500 family justice professionals.
The Stewarts Divorce and Family Podcast’s hosts Sam, Jenny and Tim provide detail about the new system, how it compares to the old process and what this will mean for future divorce proceedings in this one-off podcast episode.
As with all episodes of the Stewarts Divorce and Family Podcast, this special episode is available to listen to below using our embedded player or Spotify, Apple, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and Deezer. Please click on the link for your preferred platform and subscribe to the podcast for future episode updates.
The key changes
- Prior to the new law coming into force, one person had to be blamed for the ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage, in order for the couple to legally divorce if wishing to commence that process without waiting. Otherwise, couples needed to wait a minimum of two years.
- The law as it stood caused particular issues in non-consensual divorce proceedings, highlighted in the Owens v Owens case in 2018.
- Requirements to rely on a ‘fault’ or extended periods of separation are now being replaced by a simple statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
- Couples will now be able to submit a joint application for divorce where the decision to separate is mutual.
- The change in law also removes the option for one person in the marriage to contest the divorce, unless the validity or subsistence of the marriage or the jurisdiction is challenged.
- Language surrounding divorce will be modernised, with the ‘decree nisi’ being renamed to become the ‘conditional order’, and the ‘decree absolute’ renamed to the ‘final order’.
Views from our team
Sam said in the podcast: “The framework for our divorce system dates back to 1973… and the requirement of one party to prove the fault of the other in order to obtain a divorce within two years of separation has seemed very out of sync with modern values and views for a very long time indeed.
“The breakdown of a marriage is always a difficult time for everyone, and the decision to divorce is never one that is taken lightly. Once that decision is made, having to highlight the fault of one party either through infidelity or examples of unreasonable behaviour can create far more difficulties and lead to anger and resentment, which can make the dialogue regarding children and finances more difficult.”
Jenny noted that it will be interesting to see if the changes lead to an increase in the number of couples divorcing. This has happened in other countries which reformed their divorce laws, but the rising numbers were preceded by a drop while couples waited for the changes to set in. In contrast, we at Stewarts have seen rising numbers of new instructions for divorces in recent months following the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown situations.
All three hosts agreed that these long-overdue changes are a significant positive step for family law in England and Wales.
More Divorce and Family podcast episodes
Season one of the podcast is now available to listen to in full, and covers topics including finances in a separation, what to expect in court, alternatives to court, common mistakes that can be avoided and co-parenting after a separation.
The podcast series features leading lawyers from our Divorce and Family department and covers a wide range of topics to help individuals, advisors and others understand and navigate the many issues that can arise between a couple on separation.
Season two of the podcast is currently in production. Following the success of season one, which has attracted an active listener base and earned spots on ‘top podcast’ lists, our team will move on to discuss pre- and post-nuptial agreements, the law regarding unmarried couples, and an introductory look at the law surrounding international child abduction.
You can find further information regarding our expertise, experience and team on our Divorce and Family pages.
If you require assistance from our team, please contact us.
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