MOST of us will not shed many tears to see the back of 2020

Buried deep in the news footage from earlier in the year was important news for those seeking to divorce on a non-confrontational basis. Those seeking to end their relationships in a more civilised basis will relish the prospect of being able to do so at some stage towards the latter part of next year.

Currently, a petitioning spouse can only secure a decree of divorce if he/she can prove the marriage has broken down irretrievably on one of five facts, the two most popular being ‘adultery’ and ‘unreasonable behaviour’. Currently, for those who want to divorce on a consensual basis, they have to have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years before issuing their divorce petition and must have the other party consent.

The government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received Royal Assent in June 2020 although the reforms have not yet come into force. No fault divorce is expected to be introduced in autumn 2021

The new legislation will:

• replace the ‘five facts’ with a new requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown

• remove the possibility of contesting the divorce

• introduce an option for a joint application

• make sure language is in plain English, for example, changing ‘decree nisi’ to conditional order and ‘decree absolute’ to final order

The main thrust of the new legislation is that no-fault divorce will undoubtedly reduce conflict, allowing couples to focus on important issues like children, property and finances.

Time for change is here and is welcomed by both the profession and those it and the family justice system serve. Some say it should have been updated years ago. I think that is a hard proposition to argue against but better late than never.

For advice contact our specialist family law solicitor, Andrew Smith in York, or Richard Buckley in Sheffield, or Chris Burns and Sophie Arrowsmith in Leeds.