The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (which will be implemented in Autumn 2021) will now allow couples, for the very first time, to apply for a divorce order by stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. There will be no requirement to attribute any blame to one party. In fact, the couple now has the opportunity to apply for the divorce together.Lawyers will be better placed to support couples to resolve matters as constructively and amicably as possible, minimising the impact on any children they may have.

The current law states that there has to be some element of blame for one party to petition for divorce against the other. The three reasons given fall under the following:

  • Adultery – If you can prove adultery, you simply need to say you find it intolerable to live together.
  • Unreasonable Behaviour – In this case, the court has to agree the behaviour makes it unreasonable to expect you to continue living together. Courts have imposed a high threshold, often requiring serious, specific examples.
  • Desertion – This can make for particularly complicated legal proceedings. While there’s no statutory delay to the process itself, you can’t start until two years after the desertion.

If you can’t or won’t allege one of these faults, you can only get divorced once you’ve been separated for two years if both spouses agree to the divorce, or five years if one spouse refuses.

The most common fact relied upon by couples is the other party’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) for 2019 show that 49% of wives and 35% of husbands petitioned on the other’s unreasonable behaviour.

Under the new bill a spouse will simply have to claim that their marriage has irrevocably broken down. This also means that spouses will not be able to contest the choice divorce. Apart from on grounds such as coercion and fraud. The bill will also introduce a six-month minimum period that must pass between the divorce proceedings starting to the divorce being finalised.

For further advice, contact our specialist team on 01792 468684 or email

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