Politics

Warning over surge in surprise divorces after April 6



Lawyers and family courts are expecting a surge in divorce applications next month when a new ‘no-fault’ law comes into effect, making it easier for couples to split. The government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020, which comes into force on April 6, reforms the divorce process to fundamentally change the way the legal system processes divorces.

Many couples wishing to avoid blaming each other for the breakdown in their marriage have been waiting until the law comes into force, creating a spike in divorces, lawyers predict. Some partners may also find themselves the recipient of a surprise divorce petition, as the new rules allow for no-blame sole applications without contention.

Graeme Fraser, head of family department at OGR Stock Denton expects the divorce rate to rise across the capital. He said: “In the immediate term, we anticipate a spike in the volume of divorce applications due to the number of couples who have been waiting for the new divorce laws to come into force.

“Potentially the decision to divorce may also come as a bolt out of the blue for some, as no reason has to be provided for a sole application, although couples are encouraged to file joint applications as the new law is designed to reduce conflict.”

From April 6 there will no longer be a need to cite adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion as grounds for divorce or to establish a period of two or five years of separation. The new Act also removes the possibility of contesting the divorce, introduces an option for a joint application and simplifies the language used in the legal divorce process, for example changing ‘decree nisi’ to conditional order and ‘decree absolute’ to final order

The changes will apply to all divorces commenced after April 6. The minimum period between the start of a divorce and the granting of a conditional order will be six months. The new rules will also mean a fundamental change in the role of divorce solicitors. It is predicted that in many cases couples will no longer need to use lawyers.

Mr Fraser said: “Many couples will view the process as being a transactional one only, which removes the potential for hostility. It is anticipated that this may lead to the take up of non-court dispute options such as mediation, and an increased demand for a solicitor to act as a neutral facilitator for the couple rather than each spouse requiring a separate lawyer.”

After the initial surge in applications, the changes are not expected to lead to an increase in the overall number of couples divorcing as in other countries where no-fault divorce has been introduced, after an initial peak numbers remain the same.





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