Divorce, Dissolution And Separation Act 2020

Now that we have begun a new year, it seems appropriate to reflect on 2022, a year that
saw many significant changes to family law within England. The most pivotal of
these changes was the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act
2020, which came into force on 6 April 2022.

Fundamentally this new legislation has removed the need to prove that one party is at fault
for the divorce or dissolution to proceed. Rather, individuals can now seek to separate from their
spouse or civil partner on the basis that the relationship has ‘irretrievably broken
down’ and this statement in itself is taken as proof that the divorce or dissolution
should be granted. As such, it is no longer possible for the receiving party of the divorce
application to defend the divorce and dispute the breakdown of the relationship (although this was extremely rare). Provided
that the English court has jurisdiction and that the marriage or civil partnership had lasted
for at least one year, the divorce application will be granted.

Prior to the introduction of the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act in April 2022, the
court could not determine that the marriage had broken down irretrievably unless the party
applying for a divorce could demonstrate one of the five following facts:
a) Adultery
b) Unreasonable behaviour
c) Desertion
d) Two years separation with the other party’s consent
e) Five years separation without the other party’s consent

If you believe your relationship has irretrievably broken down and that it is now necessary to
apply for a divorce, you will need to apply to the court for a ‘divorce order’. Your
application must be accompanied by a statement of irretrievable breakdown which
will be taken as conclusive evidence that the marriage has, in fact, broken down
irretrievably. The process of divorce continues to be a two-stage process. At the first stage
the court will make a ‘conditional order’. The court can only make this order after you
confirm to the court you wish for your application to continue, and this confirmation
cannot be given until 20 weeks have passed since the start of the divorce
proceedings. At the second stage, which cannot take place until 6 weeks have passed
from the making of the conditional order, the conditional order can be made into a final
divorce order.

The process for dissolving civil partnerships reflects the divorce process above. Parties
may either independently or jointly apply to the court for a ‘dissolution order’ on the ground
that the civil partnership has broken down irretrievably and this application must also be

accompanied by a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The process for reaching both
conditional order and final order is the same as above.

You can apply for divorce online, independently or, if you would like the assistance of
one of our solicitors, please do contact our High Wycombe or Marlow office to arrange a
free 30-minute consultation with one of our family solicitors to discuss your options and the
divorce process.

Pease note that any child arrangements or financial disputes will need to be resolved, and it
is often sensible to resolve these ahead for obtaining a final order for divorce/dissolution.
Our solicitors are experienced and well-equipped in dealing with both children and finance
related disputes. Please do consult our designated family pages on the website or
contact our offices for further advice.