In somewhat disappointing news, the Government has moved forward the commencement date for no-fault divorce to 6 April 2022 to allow for the necessary implementation of the new provisions.
Courts minister Chris Philp has said that the initial deadline of autumn 2021 was ‘ambitious’ and the delay was ‘unfortunate’ but that in the meantime the Ministry of Justice would work on improving signposting to family mediation while they finalise the procedural rules for no-fault divorce.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is the biggest reform of divorce law in 50 years and was passed in June 2020 after years of campaigning from family law professionals calling for major changes to UK divorce law.
The new procedure aims to simplify and streamline the process while reducing animosity and disruption to families. The proposals include:
- Making ‘irretrievable breakdown of a marriage’ the sole ground for divorce, removing the need to provide evidence of any ‘facts’.
- Offering the option for joint application for divorce, allowing couples to come to a mutual decision.
- Removing the ability to contest a divorce to prevent anyone having to stay in an unhappy marriage.
- Introducing a timeframe of 6 months from petition to final divorce to allow a meaningful period of reflection.
Since the legislation was granted Royal Assent, the Ministry of Justice has been working with the family procedure rule committee to identify and implement the amendments to court rules, practice directions, and digital divorce processes needed to make no-fault divorce a reality. However, it seems the initial commencement date of autumn 2021 will not allow enough time to suitably prepare for the changes.
Chris Philp revealed the delay in response to a written question from Conservative MP Jane Stevenson, but there has been no official announcement from the Ministry of Justice as of yet.
“The Ministry of Justice is committed to ensuring that the amended digital service allows for a smooth transition from the existing service which has reformed the way divorce is administered in the courts and improved the service received by divorcing couples at a traumatic point in their lives.
Following detailed design work, it is now clear that these amendments, along with the full and rigorous testing of the new system ahead of implementation, will not conclude before the end of the year.”
We know this news may be frustrating to those hoping to embark on a no-fault separation this year, so if you are in need of professional advice on how to proceed, please get in touch with one of our family law solicitors to arrange a free 45-minute consultation.