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Speaking with Donna Alos, Angela informed BBC Radio Derby listeners about the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which comes into effect on 06 April 2022.

The interview

Donna: At the start of April, new rules come into effect which means you can get divorced without having to prove it’s someone’s fault. Under the current law, there is only one ground for divorce; the ground being that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and to prove this you have to show things like the other person has committed adultery, behaved unreasonably or you’ve been living apart for a number of years. It’s the biggest reform to divorce law in fifty years, but it might mean that it takes longer to get that divorce. Well, Angela Davis is a family and matrimonial lawyer with Flint Bishop Solicitors in Derby and can explain just a little bit more to us. Angela, a very good morning to you.

Angela: Good morning, Donna.

Donna: As we said there, the biggest reform to divorce law in fifty years. Just remind us again: what do you have to do to get a divorce currently?

Angela: Currently, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but to show that people have to be able to rely on one of five different facts, and they are, just quickly: that the other person has committed adultery, that the other person has behaved unreasonably, that you’ve been deserted by the other person for a period of two years or more, that you’ve lived separately for two years and the other person consents to divorce, or that you’ve lived separately for five years. Now, what quickly follows from that is most people haven’t wanted to wait two years or more, so by far the most common fact to rely upon has been either that the other person has committed adultery or that the other person has behaved unreasonably, and so straight away that does mean that there is the concept of a guilty party, because allegations have had to be made for either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. And so under the new law, the same ground will be that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, but there will no longer be any need to rely upon any of those facts. It will simply be necessary to state that you believe the marriage has broken down irretrievably. Nothing more will be required.

Donna: So basically, as you say, you don’t have to proportion blame. So obviously for a lot of couples that can sort of ease the tension maybe when getting a divorce.

Angela: Yes that’s correct.

Donna: Now, when you hear divorce you also hear the words ‘Decree Nisi’ and ‘Decree Absolute’, which are quite old-fashioned words, dare I say it. Will it be sort of a bit more modern, if that makes sense? Because those words just seem sort of out of place nowadays.

Angela: Yes, they do, don’t they. Yes. The language is being updated and becoming a lot more user-friendly, plain English and modern. Instead of ‘Decree Nisi’, we now have what will be called a Conditional Order. And instead of a ‘Decree Absolute’, we will have a Final Order.

Donna: OK, and are you finding, Angela, that some people are actually waiting until the new laws come into effect before actually starting their divorce process?

Angela: Yes, yes, definitely.

Donna: And are there any downsides to this that you see?

Angela: I think the only downside that I can see is that it will take longer. Under the current system, most divorces now are dealt with online, and we are tending to get them through in as little as three or four months under the current system. But under the new system, there is going to be introduced a new period of reflection. Between when the process starts and being able to obtain the Conditional Order, there will be a twenty-week period to allow couples to reflect and consider whether they do definitely want the divorce. So that does mean that, automatically, the process is going to take a lot longer. Probably in the region of six to eight months would be more realistic. So I think that’s probably the only downside that I can see.

Donna: And do you think this will make a big difference for families? I guess especially for families with children, maybe?

Angela: I think so yes. Because under the old system, straight away, unless waiting for quite a long period of time, people had to apportion blame and that could set the tone right at the outset, having to make allegations against someone, and that will completely go. So hopefully it will be a lot more amicable.

You can find out more details about the new law change in our extensive article here.



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