6 April 2022 is a day of significant change for Family Law Practitioners across England and Wales, as the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force. The launch of “no fault divorce” is a welcome change for many, allowing couples to divorce without apportioning blame.
Previously divorcing spouses had to provide evidence to the court that their marriage had broken down irretrievably by relying one of five facts which included adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion. It is hoped that this new process will reduce conflict within the legal process which can be particularly damaging to families involving children.
By far one of the most commonly relied upon facts was demonstrating that the marriage had broken down due to the unreasonable behaviour of the other party. As practitioners we regularly found ourselves having to draft a list of complaints about the other party which would satisfy the court’s objective test of whether such behaviour was unreasonable, without going so far as to unnecessarily increase the conflict between the parties. The new procedure is designed to allow divorcing spouses the individual autonomy to state their marriage has broken down irretrievably without having to apportion blame as to why. It also allows spouses to submit a joint application to court. It is important to note that although this reform marks a significant change in the divorce process, the change in the law will not have any impact on the finances upon divorce or disputes involving children which remain very separate proceedings unlike in other countries around the world.