Help & Advice by Paul Dodds Law
Posted on

The best way to resolve any family law dispute is by discussion, compromise and agreement.  Where that is not possible you may find yourself having to take proceedings against your former partner or to defend proceedings brought against you by your former partner.  In those circumstances it is sometimes difficult to keep in clear sight the effect that contested proceedings can have on the liability to pay increased solicitors’ fees.

  •  We always look for a way to negotiate a sensible outcome for you without having to go to court.
  • We speak plain English
  • We do the simple things well
  • We can help you complete the divorce application form

The New Law of Divorce from 6 April 2022

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (also known as the ‘DDSA’) changes the law on divorce, dissolution and separation by:

  • removing the requirement to provide evidence of ‘conduct’ or ‘separation’ facts and replacing this with a simple requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership or to obtain a judicial separation
  • removing the ability to defend the decision to divorce or end the civil partnership
  • allowing, for the first time, joint applications for divorce, dissolution, and separation, meaning that couples can now apply together for a divorce, dissolution, or separation
  • introducing a new minimum overall timeframe of six months (26 weeks) made up of a ‘minimum period’ of 20 weeks in divorce and dissolution proceedings between the start of proceedings (when the court issues the application) and when the applicant(s) may apply for a conditional order and the current minimum of 6 weeks between the conditional order and when the order can be made final.  This ensures that there is a period of reflection, and where divorce is inevitable, provides a greater opportunity for couples to agree the practical arrangements for the future
  • updating the legal language used for divorce.  ‘Petition’ becomes ‘Application’, ‘Petitioner’ becomes ‘Applicant’, ‘Decree Nisi’ becomes ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ becomes ‘Final Order’.  This makes the language used simpler and more accessible to those outside the legal profession, and aligned across all legislation relating to divorce, dissolution, and separation.

The DDSA represents the biggest reform of divorce laws in half a century and aims to reduce the impact that conflict and allegations of blame can have on families, and in particular, on any children.

The Old Law of Divorce before 6 April 2022

The party seeking divorce has to satisfy the court that the legal test of irretrievable breakdown is met, by citing one or more of five ‘facts’.  Three ‘facts’ are based on conduct, being behaviour often referred to as ‘unreasonable behaviour’, adultery and desertion.  Two ‘facts’ are based on separation.  The new law removes the requirement to assign blame, by allowing one party, or the couple jointly, to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown.  No evidence is required for this beyond a statement.

The DDSA also limits the ability of one party to challenge a divorce, which in some cases has allowed a domestic abuser to exercise further coercive control over their victim.  Divorce and dissolution applications will now only be disputed on jurisdictional grounds, on the validity of the marriage or civil partnership (that is if it was never valid in the first place or if it has already ended), in addition to fraud and procedural compliance (for example, the marriage was not formed in accordance with the relevant rules and regulations).

The DDSA brings divorce law in line with the government’s approach to family justice, that is avoiding conflict wherever possible and reducing its damaging effect on children in particular.  Crucially, it will also introduce a 20-week period between the initial application and when the applicant(s) may apply for a conditional order (formerly know as the ‘decree nisi’).  This will provide a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to turn back if both parties want to, or, where divorce is inevitable, it will be better enable couples to cooperate and make arrangements for the future.

A clean break order can be obtained either at the end of a contested case when the judge decides that it is fair to impose a clean break or where parties reach an agreement and wish to agree there be a clean break as part of that agreement and invite the judge to approve the terms they have agreed between them and ask the court to make such an order with the consent of both parties.

A glossary of some of the terms that you might hear if you go to court can be found by clicking here

We continue to offer a fixed fee First Advice appointment of up to one hour with an expert family lawyer together with a follow up letter of advice for the sum of £234 (£195 plus VAT).  Further information on the services that we offer can be found at the link below.

View Paul Dodds Private Family Law services