Should I wait to apply for my divorce?
When I meet new clients, one question which I am often asked is “should I wait until April 2022 to divorce my spouse?”
The law is finally changing on 6 April 2022 when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 comes into force. Married couples wanting to divorce will no longer need to blame one spouse when they have not been separated for the requisite amount of time. There will be no need to state that the other spouse has committed adultery or behaved unreasonably, just that their marriage has broken down.
The divorce itself is often just the start of a married couple separating; much of their attention will be focused on other issues such as resolving their finances; ensuring that they get a fair financial deal and that the arrangements for their children are agreed.
Therefore, removing the requirement to blame one spouse from the outset, which often leads to animosity between them and which then spills over to all other aspects of the separation at the very start of the process, is a very welcome change by many family law practitioners.
So, how will the new divorce process work? Either spouse will be able to make the application for divorce – a couple can even make a joint application. As opposed to one spouse relying on the ‘fact’ of unreasonable behaviour or adultery, one spouse (or indeed both) will need to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. There will then be a twenty week period to wait until either spouse can apply for the first stage of the divorce; a conditional order (previously called Decree Nisi). Six weeks after that date, either spouse can apply for the final divorce order (previously called the Decree Absolute).
It is a hugely anticipated change to the archaic divorce laws we have presently. Some spouses will choose to wait to take advantage of the new system. However, each client is different and thought must be given as to whether the step of applying for a divorce should be taken sooner rather than later, and in some cases even urgently.
Ideally though, both spouses should try to work together through their divorce in order to resolve the matrimonial finances; using processes like mediation and collaborative law to come to an agreement. Deciding when to divorce is a personal choice and often the key is getting the right help from a solicitor who is committed to working in a way which will promote the relationship of the divorcing couple in order to benefit any children of the family and to help the couple move on with their lives as amicably as possible.