From April 2022, there will be a long overdue change in the way that divorces proceed in England and Wales.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (DDSA 2020) is a landmark reform of divorce law. The new law will make the divorce process less acrimonious, reducing the impact of divorce upon parties and their children. The DDSA 2020 removes the need to assign blame for the breakdown of the marriage. It replaces the current five facts
- unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years desertion
- 2 years separation
- 5 years separation
with a single fact; that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
The new procedure will be known as ‘no fault divorce’. The Family Court will continue to deal with divorce applications. One or both parties to a marriage can apply for a divorce. The first stage in the process will be a conditional order (previously known as Decree Nisi). Under the new procedure, the conditional order cannot be granted by the court unless 20 weeks have elapsed from the start of proceedings. There will then be a further six weeks until the final divorce order can be requested (previously known as Decree Absolute).
Although the ability to contest a divorce is rarely used under the current law, under the new procedure there will be no option to defend the divorce. Implications in relation to your financial rights and inheritance It is important to understand the impact of divorce upon inheritance rights should either
party die following the divorce. You will need to make a new Will quickly after your divorce (or in contemplation of your divorce) to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of your death.
If you have a pension, you may wish to contact your pension scheme provider to up-date your nominated list of people whom you would wish to benefit from your pension in the event of your death.
Divorce will also affect any rights you may have in respect of your spouse’s pensions. It is important to understand the impact of divorce upon those rights so that you can consider whether you should take any legal steps to protect your rights before the divorce is finalised.
If you are considering remarriage, you should speak to a family lawyer before doing so as that may affect your ability to make an application for financial orders, including orders in relation to property, maintenance and pensions.