What is the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020?

Posted on September 27, 2021

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will come into force on 6th April 2022. The Act, which received Royal Assent in 2020, represents a ground-breaking reform of the law on divorce. Here Shannon Keeble, Paralegal at Jefferies explains more.

The case of Owens v Owens [2018] sparked controversy when Mrs Owens was not granted a divorce on the basis that she could not prove her husband’s behaviour has been ‘unreasonable’.  The case went to the Supreme Court, with Lady Hale concurring that they could only interpret current legislation and could therefore not make a judgment which changes the law.

Following this case, new measures are being implemented under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.

Applications for a divorce will continue to be submitted either online or by completing paper-based form, but the new law will allow parties to make a joint divorce application to move towards a more amicable process.

To be entitled to a divorce, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  1. They have been married for over a year
  2. The marriage is legally recognised in the UK
  3. The permanent residence of either party is in the UK
  4. The marriage has permanently broken down

Existing legislation requires the party applying for the divorce to prove either that the parties have been separated for a set period (2 or 5 years depending on whether the other party agrees to getting a divorce or not) or that the other party is at fault for the marriage breakdown, by way of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour.  The new measures will however introduce the ‘no fault’ divorce.

To make an application using the no fault measure, parties will need to both apply for the divorce and make statements (or a joint statement) confirming that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  These statements will be all that is required by the court and will be determinative and incontestable.

The legislation will also introduce a 26-week time frame for divorce, with the Conditional Decree (previously Decree Nisi) being granted 20 weeks after the application.  Following this, the Final Decree (previously Decree Absolute) will be granted in 6 weeks.  Robert Buckland QC claims that this will reduce emotional turmoil and be less traumatic for both parties and any children involved.

At Jefferies Family Department, our divorce solicitors are keeping fully up-to-date with the new measures, so that we are ready to assist clients when the new provisions come into force.

Whether you are looking to divorce now or intend to wait until the new rules are in force, why not contact a member of the team now to discuss your options moving forward. You can contact our specialist Family Solicitors on 01702 443 480, or email familylaw@jefferieslaw.co.uk

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only.  They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.  Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. 

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