The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act received Royal Assent on 25th of June 2020. However, it may not be implemented until 2021 and so may not be available to use until 2022.

Currently in order to get divorced without having to wait at least two years one spouse must allege the other has committed adultery or the other has behaved in such a way that the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with him or her (unreasonable behaviour).

It has been believed by some that the current law creates unnecessary conflict with most petitions being based upon adultery or unreasonable behaviour unless the parties have lived apart for two years and both consent.

Under the new Act a spouse or civil partner will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. It will not be possible for the other spouse to contest the basis of the divorce. There is also provision to allow couples to jointly apply for the divorce if the decision is a mutual one.

The hope is that the changes will make it easier to obtain a divorce without laying blame and thereby reduce conflict, particularly when there are children involved.

The main changes are:

  • Dispensing with the need to blame one spouse or to live apart for 2 years to prove irretrievable breakdown
  • Allowing a spouse to assert irretrievable breakdown without the other being able to challenge this
  • Introduction of a joint application for couples
  • Introduction of a 6-month time frame
  • Updating terminology

July 2020
Posted by Alison Hall, divorce/cohabitation specialist, Family Law Advanced Panel and Resolution Member