The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 means that divorcing couples are no longer required to place blame on one party for the breakdown of their marriage. This was brought in to avoid parties having to start proceedings off on an acrimonious footing – whereby one person had to state enough reasons as to why it was intolerable to live with the other person or cite their adultery as a breakdown of the marriage.
Since April 2022, when no fault divorce came into force, 12,978 new divorce applications were issued. Many divorcing parties had been waiting for the new rules to come into force before starting proceedings to avoid having to place blame on the other. Others also wanted to have the option to issue proceedings as joint applicants, allowing both parties an element of control in the process.
The new law means that unnecessary conflict and anxiety will hopefully be avoided for all involved, including the children. It hopes to start things from a more amicable standpoint.
Of course, whilst this is good, it can cause some concerns in regards to potential backlogs with the court. The courts were already backlogged before the pandemic, with it increasing significantly during the pandemic, however this rise in applications will likely cause a further delay in the court system. The current delays have been described as “unprecedented” and “unacceptable”. Delays can cause harm to all involved, keeping tensions and animosity running from the start to end of proceedings. It can also mean parties are unable to move on to the next chapter of their lives.
The government is trying to ensure that there are enough full time judges to deal with the increasing caseloads which the court is likely to see. However, the courts state that it is essential that clients receive early legal advice to ensure that divorce is definitely the right choice for them in their specific situation, as the new rules does not mean that divorce is a quick solution. If divorce is decided to be the best option, the solicitors should help to assist in negotiating settlements, or advising about mediation, rather than applying to the courts in an already overwhelmed system.