Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020: The End of the Blame-Game

Article by Barbara Gonzalez-Jaspe

The amendments to the law on divorce have been long overdue and signifies the biggest change to divorce law in decades. The overriding objective is to allow parties to separate with dignity and without needing to place blame where it does not squarely fall on one side or either.

The Blame-Game

The previous law on divorce did little to help the stereotypical view most people have of a warring couple in court. To many it wasn’t the fuel added to the flame but the cause of the whole problem. Couples who had decided they no longer wanted to be married had the following options available to them:

One party had to accuse the other of desertion, adultery or unreasonable behavior. If none of the above applied, they had to spend two years apart if both parties agreed to the divorce, or 5 years apart if one party objected. 

This led many couples having to assign blame in order to divorce within a reasonable time. For those who couldn’t play the blame-game, they had to remain together for two years which prolonged disagreements over finances and children. Both situations often caused unnecessary animosity between those who had equally decided their marriage was over. The previous law also forced parties who wanted a divorce to remain in a marriage for up to five years if their ex refused to accept they wanted a divorce.

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

From the 6th April 2022 couples who wish to split amicably are able to do so and removes the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse which is often deeply personal.

One or both parties can file for a divorce by making a statement their marriage is over. There is a minimum 20 week period between the initial commencement of proceedings and making an application for a conditional order (formerly Decree Nisi), a further 6 weeks later the divorce is then granted in a final order (formerly Decree Absolute). The courts will still be involved to resolve any contested issues with respect of finances, children, division of assets and maintenance but the personal reasons for the split remains between the couple.

This new law allows for those who wish to part ways to do so without becoming enemies for life when they simply just want to move on. It also allows for children to be protected from warring parents and gives dignity and autonomy to those who are leaving an unhappy, abusive or controlling relationship by preventing the other from opposing the application.

Ultimately this change in the law has been welcomed by family lawyers and those seeking to divorce quickly and/or on good terms. It is hoped this will go some way towards alleviating some of the unpleasantness of divorce and its positive impact to filter across other areas of family law.