The new law on divorces is the biggest shakeup in divorce law in 50 years. The new law will remove the requirement to establish one or more fault grounds by one party against the other to prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down. Instead of attributing blame for the relationship breakdown to one party, either one party or both can cite “irretrievable breakdown”. This can be done by one party or as a joint application. There will be a minimum period of 20 weeks from beginning of proceedings to the point of a preliminary Conditional Order. 20 weeks must elapse from when the application is filed with the court before the parties can apply for the Conditional Order. This period is aimed to give the parties a ‘period of reflection’ to give them the chance to consider whether their relationship is beyond repair. If they still want a divorce after this period, they must confirm this to the court when they apply for the Final Order. The divorce will not be made final until a 6-week period between the Conditional Order and Final Order has passed. It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce. Previously under the fault-based system, one person submitted a divorce petition citing particulars of their spouse’s behaviour (such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour) as grounds for divorce. Under the no-fault system, this will no longer be necessary
Impacts of no-fault divorce?
Many people within the legal profession have welcomed the new Act and see it as a much-needed change in how divorce operates. Many believe the old system to be outdated, increasing animosity and acrimony between couples. At the end of the day, why should it be necessary for one party to blame another legally, if the relationship has broken down. Relationships are complex and it is rarely the case that breakdowns are the sole fault of one party. Removing the accusations from the process should make it a less adversarial one all round. There are concerns removing blame from divorce proceedings and simplifying the process will lead to an increase in divorce cases. However, the 20-week period will ensure couples do reflect on their relationship and decide if getting a divorce is the right thing for themselves and their family. This period will also be a useful one for couples to discuss and hopefully agree arrangements for children and finances if the relationship is definitely going to end.