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Changes To The Law Around No-Fault Divorce

Background 

Following the case of Owens v Owens, where the Court decided that the particulars one spouse was relying on for an “unreasonable behaviour” petition did not meet the threshold, despite the test supposedly being a “subjective” one, Family Law Practitioners started petitioning for “no-fault” divorce to become law. They were successful and in June 2020 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act received Royal Assent. This Act will end the “fault arguments”. It is anticipated to become law as of 2nd April 2022.

New Terminology 

The new Act aims to make the terminology more user friendly.

  • The Petitioner will now be known as the Applicant
  • A Divorce Petition will now be known as an Application
  • Decree Nisi will now be known as a Conditional Order
  • Decree Absolute will now be known as a Final Order

So what is the impact of the New Law

There will now only be one ground for a divorce and that is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, with no need to explain why, previously having to indicate which of the 5 factors you were relying upon. As a consequence, it will no longer be possible to contest the decision to divorce.

Further, an application for divorce can now be made by one or both parties jointly.

The new law provides for a minimum period between filing your application and seeking the Conditional Order of 20 weeks (from the date of issue) and then as per the current law, will insist the Applicant waits a further 6 weeks and 1 day before applying for the Conditional Order to be made Final.

At the time of applying for the Conditional Order to be made Final, the Applicant will have to have given the Respondent at least 14 days notice of their intention, filing a Certificate of Notice with the Court confirming the same.

Other Changes

Previously, the Court could refuse an application for Decree Absolute in a 5-year separation case on the grounds of “grave financial hardship” to the Respondent. This has now been removed and instead, the Court now needs to satisfy itself before making any Final Order that: –

  1. The Applicant is not required to make financial provision for the Respondent; or
  2. That the Financial provision made is reasonable and fair in the circumstances.

The new Act also brings matters into the 21st century as service of the Application can now be made via email.

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