It was announced that the proposals for new legislation of the Separation Act 2020 will be introduced from the 6th of April 2022 to allow changes to no fault divorce procedures. This legislation will stop forcing spouses to evidence ‘unreasonable behaviour’ and allows couples to file that their marriage has ‘broken down irretrievably’.
This legislation was met with strong support by those of us who work in family justice, including us at Able Mediation. This is because, it is widely understood that this requirement to assign blame often exacerbates conflict between the divorcing couples at a time when tensions are already high. We sadly see this in mediation, where it sometimes leads to the breakdown of what were constructive negotiations.
This can be particularly damaging when there are children involved. A large body of research shows that the effect of long-term parental conflict on children is damaging to children’s well-being, as well as being an indicator for negative outcomes for those children later in life.
What makes a Marriage ‘Broken Down Irretrievably’
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) completely removes the need for couples to blame one another for the breakdown in their marriage. The Act allows for a spouse, or a couple jointly, to apply for divorce by stating that their marriage has ‘broken down irretrievably’. This means that one or both of the couple believe that the marriage has diverged enough that it cannot be salvaged.
The new changes via the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) include:
- Removing the need to list facts to prove the ground for divorce, thereby reducing unnecessary conflict
- Applications can be sole or joint
- Communication from the court can be by email
- Minimum wait of 20 weeks between application and conditional order of divorce
- Limited opportunity to contest the divorce, if made on sole application
- Part of wider action to improve the family justice system
Changes remove unnecessary conflict to ease stress on couples and children
Removing the necessity to assign blame in divorce reduces conflict and the stress this puts on parents and children. Children often pick up on these feelings even if they are not directly involved with the process. The impact of this can be felt by both parents and children for many years to come.
New minimum wait of 20 weeks between application and conditional order of divorce
Because there is no longer the requirement to identify the reasons for wanting to divorce, or be separated for two years prior to application, the 20 week wait has been introduced to allow couples a period of reflection. This time gives the couple time in which to think further about their decision and to start discussions about their arrangements for both children and finances. Mediators can help with these discussions, where needed.
Part of wider action to improve the family justice system
After the Family Justice Review in 2011, the Government agreed with the majority of its findings and committed to long term improvements. These have included the introduction of the single Family Court, the Children and Families Act 2014 and the new legislation for no-fault divorce in 2022. However, professionals in all sectors of family law agree that there is still a long way to go.
Aidan Jones, Chief Executive at Relate, said: ‘This is far from the end of the journey, though. As a society we must encourage healthy relationships, reduce parental conflict (whether parents are together or not) and in turn improve children’s wellbeing and life chances. Relationship support services are vital to this.’
Where will it go next? We wonder if the reforms could go further for parents, perhaps to include something along the lines of changes implemented in Denmark on 01 April 2019, which require parents to complete an online parenting course named before they can apply for a divorce.
The testing phase of the “Cooperation after Divorce” modules in Denmark, which was based on information from 2500 volunteers over 3 years, showed “staggering” results. In 12 of 14 cases the programme was shown to have a moderate to strong effect on mental and physical health!
For more information about the proposed UK divorce reforms, click here.
For more information about the divorce reforms in Denmark, click here.
Additional Changes not advertised by Gov.uk
The proposed changes include:
- making ‘irretrievable breakdown’ the only ground for divorce
- introducing the requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown, instead of the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’
- continuing with a two-stage legal process, referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute, and now referred to as conditional and final order
- allowing joint as well as sole applications for divorce
- reducing the ability to refuse/contest a divorce, it is now only possible to dispute with regards to:
b) the validity of the marriage,
c) that the marriage or civil partnership has already ended or,
d) that there has been a fraud or procedural non-compliance.
- introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months from application to final divorce, to allow couples time for reflection and the opportunity to turn back.
No Fault Divorce Mediation
The introduction of no-fault divorce proceedings has been a huge relief for many separating couples who wish to end their marriages, without having to apportion blame.
Issues surrounding divorce, dissolution and separation can be assisted by mediation. Mediators we can facilitate discussions relating to children and finances, and encourage communication between spouses to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome.
Able Mediation for No Fault Divorce
If you need guidance in your no fault divorce, our Mediation services can help guide you through the process and give you the space to work with your spouse in a positive way and create a beneficial outcome for all.
Click HERE for help with No Fault Divorce.