The ‘no fault’ divorce law that aims to end the blame game when married couples separate has now come into effect.

The government is also introducing a new online service to help couples adapt to the changes.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 reforms the legal requirements and process for divorce. The act aims to reduce the potential for conflict amongst divorcing couples by removing the ability to make allegations about the conduct of a spouse and allowing couples to end their marriage jointly.

The act also introduces a minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and application for conditional order. This provides couples with a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconsider. Where divorce is inevitable, it enables couples to cooperate and plan for the future.

It will no longer be possible to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds including jurisdiction.

The government says that if you have an application saved on the current digital service and still want to proceed, you’ll need to access your account and submit your application by 4pm on 31 March.

Alternatively, you can wait until the new digital service is launched. If you still want to apply for a divorce, you can start your application again from 6 April.

If you’ve started filling out a paper application form, you’ll need to make sure it’s received by the court by 4pm 31 March. If you’re sending it in the post, you’ll need to make sure it reaches the court by that date.

It can take time to get the right documents together for your application. So, if you haven’t started an application yet, you may want to wait until the new services are available from 6 April.

Important dates

  • from 31 March, you can no longer apply on the current paper or digital systems or access a saved digital application which is yet to be ssued by the court
  • from 31 March to 5 April, the digital service will not accept new applications
  • from 6 April, the new paper and digital services will be available.

Urgent applications that need to be considered after the deadlines set out above and before 6 April will continue to be accepted, and issued where possible, if received by post or email, before 4pm on 5 April.

Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute applications that have been issued will be saved and remain available on the service.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of divorce and family law.