A Year since the Landmark Marriage Reform
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (“the Act”) came into effect in April 2022 and implemented major changes to the divorce process; removing the requirement for couples to blame each other for the collapse of their marriage. Lubna Shuja, the Law Society President, stated “One year ago, the family law system saw its biggest change in 50 years when ‘no-fault’ divorce came into effect”. While allowing couples to look forward to the future, the new system allows families to focus on important decisions regarding childcare and finances.
Since the introduction of the Act, the evidence required to prove the breakdown of a marriage has been reduced to the statement of one spouse. This is the only required evidence, without the need for blame. The Act also established an option for joint divorce applications, allowing a cooperative outlook towards the process.
Over the past year, no-fault divorce has proven popular. According to the Family court statistics quarterly: October to December 2022, there were 89,123 applications for divorce within the nine months following the introduction of the Act. Prior to this, there were 77,449 applications for divorce from April 2021 to December 2021.
Since the introduction of digital divorce applications in 2018, most applicants prefer using the online service. In 2022, 94% of divorce applications were submitted online, a huge increase from 10% in 2019.
The Law Society has called on the government to make greater investments in the family justice system as delays are causing suffering and uncertainty for families subjected to divorce proceedings. Divorce applications submitted under the old system continue to be processed together with those submitted under the new system. Applications under the old system are still seeing unreasonable delays caused by the lack of family judges and the approach adopted by HM Courts and Tribunal Service in managing paper-based applications. Lubna Shuja highlighted that “it may take three years to return to pre-pandemic levels of service.”
Although the new no-fault system has countless benefits, it does not come without its negatives. A major concern is that, along with the option of online divorce applications, couples may view the process as so uncomplicated that they do not seek legal advice. Important decisions regarding finances and valuable assets, such as properties, need to be considered and the court is required to confirm any financial agreements. Despite the simplicity of the process, it is essential that you seek legal advice when making an application for divorce as not doing so may cause greater problems further down the line.
It is clear that the new system of divorce proceedings is extremely beneficial and a positive step for all parties involved. Despite the difficult issues surrounding finances and assets, the lack of hostility caused by blame encourages divorcing couples to work together and ensures the process is as smooth and uncomplicated as possible. This reduces the negative impact on children and families as much as possible.
We would strongly advise that you to consult with a solicitor before lodging any divorce application.
Written by Josh, Paralegal