The implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act will now come into force on April 6, 2022, not in October as the government had originally planned.
I’ve written many times on this blog that the new no-fault law will reduce the conflict between couples legally ending a marriage or civil partnership as they will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown.
In a written answer to a question posed by Conservative MP Jane Stevenson, published last month, Chris Philp MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, said the original implementation date had been “ambitious”, although the Bill received Royal Assent in June 2020.
He said the government had started work to identify, design and build the necessary amendments to court forms and also to amend the online digital divorce service while rules are being finalised.
Reported here he admitted these amendments will not be finished before the end of the year: “The Ministry of Justice is committed to ensuring that the amended digital service allows for a 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.
“While this delay is unfortunate it is essential that we take the time to get this right.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our changes will help divorcing couples to resolve their issues amicably by ending the needless ‘blame game’ that can exacerbate conflict and damage a child’s upbringing. These measures represent the biggest reform to divorce laws in 50 years, so it is right that we take time to ensure they are implemented as smoothly as possible.”
The Act will require divorcing couples to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown and replace the need for evidence of conduct, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or proof of separation.
It will remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
It also introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the Court that a conditional order of divorce may be made.
I do feel so sorry for clients who were anticipating the new law would come in soon. This will only add additional worry and pressures on to them, and reaching financial settlements is going to take longer. The Ministry of Justice really needs to get these ‘technical issues’ sorted out, to help divorcing couples move on with their lives.
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The above is accurate as at 8 July 2021. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.