In my practice, the most common fact that a petitioner will pursue is the ‘unreasonable behaviour’ ground. This is where the Petitioner must satisfy the Court that the Respondent has acted in such a way that they cannot reasonably be expected to live with them, or indeed remain married to them. Examples of such behaviour are required in order to satisfy a Court. This means that in those circumstances where the marriage has come to an actual end, one party must set out often unpleasant examples of their ex-spouses’ behaviour in order to satisfy the ground for divorce.
“The new law which comes into effect as of 6th April 2022
means that there will be no requirement to apportion blame”
The other two ‘facts’ which involve either a period of two or five year separation means that couples often have to stay in loveless marriages for at least two years in order to rely on this ground for divorce. It is therefore not surprising that the legislation is viewed by many as been as outdated, unfair and in dire need of reform and that many choose the ‘blame game’ as a speedier route to divorce.
What does the end to the ‘Blame Game’ mean?
The new law which comes into effect as of 6th April 2022 means that there will be no requirement to apportion blame. Separating couples will simply need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
For the first time, separated couples will also be able to make joint applications stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Alternatively, one spouse can commence and continue with a sole application.
It will also prevent the ability for a spouse to defend the divorce albeit as I understand, they can defend the divorce in very limited circumstances.
The new legislation also introduces a 20 week reflection period. This commences once the divorce petition has been issued and gives spouses an opportunity to consider other options. It will also allow couples time to plan for children and finances. The 20-week period will commence once the divorce petition has been issued and when the spouse may apply for a Conditional Order formally referred to as the decree nisi. The current minimum time frame of 6 weeks between the pronouncement of decree nisi and application for decree absolute will also remain.
Another stark change is the update in the legal language and the legal terminology used for divorce. For example, the ‘petition’ will be known as the ‘application’. The ‘petitioner’ will be known as the ‘applicant’. ‘Decree nisi’ known as the ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘decree absolute’ will become a ‘Final Order’. The rationale behind this is to make the language simpler and more accessible to those outside the legal profession.
When does the new legislation come into effect?
The Court has released some important time frames to note. The first is that the new law will come into effect on 6th April 2022. If you are to petition for a divorce on or before the 5th April 2022 then your application will progress under the existing law. Any application submitted under the existing law that are not issued by the Court before the 6th April will be returned to you will be informed that you need to complete an application under the new law.
“If you are to petition for a divorce on or before the 5th April 2022
then your application will progress under the existing law.”
The Court has asked that all paper applications are received by the Court by 4pm on the 31st March. If any applications are received after this date there is a risk that they may be rejected and returned to the sender who will have to apply on the new form and under the new law.
All digital applications must be submitted online no later than 4pm on the 31st March. The digital system will accept new applications from 10am on the 6th April 2022.