England and Wales will move to a ‘no-fault’ divorce system on 6 April 2022 when the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 takes effect.
Under the new system, when applying for divorce, separating couples will no longer have to place blame on one another in order to avoid waiting out several years of separation before being able to legally dissolve their marriage or civil partnership.
It is hoped this will reduce the potential for tensions to be built up in the divorce process, a change which it is anticipated will be particularly beneficial to the children of separating parents.
However, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (“HMCTS”) have indicated that they will stop accepting old-style fault-based divorce applications at 4pm on 31 March 2022, before they start to process new-style no-fault applications from 10am on 6 April 2022. This applies to both paper applications and those made via the online service.
This means that for a period of time legal practitioners, along with individuals who are applying for their own divorce or dissolution, will not be able to start divorce or dissolution proceedings.
HMCTS have said that during this "gap" urgent divorce or dissolution applications will be dealt with. What will constitute an “urgent” application, however, is unclear. This may perhaps allow applications to proceed where there is a jurisdiction race. It is also possible this means HMCTS would progress an application in exceptional personal circumstances. Further guidance on this is awaited from HMCTS.
If you are thinking about a divorce or a dissolution and want to speak to a lawyer about the new no fault system, please contact our team who will be pleased to help you.