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The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into effect on 6th April 2022.  The same allows for a statement of ‘irretrievable breakdown’ of the marriage or civil partnership or to obtain a judicial separation without alleging blame or having to wait for a period of separation to elapse.

There will no longer be an option to defend one parties decision to divorce or end their civil partnership.  A joint application will now be possible which was not previously an option.  Joint applications are being strongly encouraged unless inappropriate such as in circumstances where a party has been subject to domestic abuse.

There will now be a minimum overall timeframe of 6 months between the start of proceedings and their conclusion with parties having to wait for 20 weeks from issuing their application until they are able to apply for a conditional order and a further 6 weeks before they can make the conditional order final.   This is to ensure a period of reflection and where the end of the marriage or civil partnership is definite time for couples to make the necessary practical arrangements for their futures such as sorting their finances or making arrangements for their children.

The language is changing to make the same simpler and more accessible.  A ‘Petition’ will now be referred to as an ‘Application’, a Decree Nisi as a ‘Conditional Order’ and a Decree Absolute’ as ‘Final Order’.

The hope is that the reforms will reduce hostility and encourage parties to work together particularly for the sake of any children of the marriage or civil partnership.

A new online divorce process is to be launched in order to accommodate these changes, meaning the old services (both for litigants in person and solicitors acting for parties) will be unavailable from 31 March 2022 while the Ministry of Justice prepares for these changes. If you wish to apply under the old or existing law Digital applications must be submitted by 4pm on 31 March 2022 and Paper applications must be received by the court by 4pm on 31 March 2022.  Whilst the service is unavailable there is a process for Urgent applications to be emailed or posted, such as where there is an issue involving a jurisdiction race.  The new paper and digital services will be available from 6 April 2022.  The Court are not guaranteeing that applications under the old or existing law even if submitted within the timeframes above will be issued before 6 April and are suggesting the same are submitted as early as possible or parties wait and issue under the new law from 6th April 2022.  Any applications issued before 6th April 2022 will progress under the old or existing law and any applications issued from 6th April 2022 under the new law.

If you have any questions as regards the changes or are contemplating separation our family lawyers are on hand to assist. Please contact Emily Cannell or Rachel Smith or call 0191 281 6151 for further advice.


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