THIS month has seen the biggest shake up of divorce laws for 50 years after the new ‘no-fault’ legislation was introduced on April 6 which means married couples are now able to divorce more amicably, without assigning blame.

The changes to the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 enables couples to divorce on the grounds of ‘irreconcilable differences,’ either individually or together, and without pointing the finger of blame.

Prior to this couples had to state why they were divorcing, with the three most common legal reasons being allegations of the other’s unreasonable behaviour, allegations of adultery, or the fact that they have been already separated for two years, provided their spouse agreed.

Rachel Spencer Robb, who is a partner and head of LCF Law’s Family Law team in Ilkley, said: “Removing the need for evidence of one party being to blame for the failure of the marriage should reduce the acrimony and conflict that often arises during a divorce, and particularly when the fault-based grounds of behaviour and adultery are contested.

“Before these changes, unless someone could prove there was adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way they could divorce without their spouse agreeing to it, was to live apart for five years.

“We always advise that a no conflict approach to divorce is the best way forward, especially where there are children involved, and we support our clients through their own journeys.

“We had a lot of clients who chose to wait for the changes in April, but there were still some people who were keen to push ahead to divorce right away. They wanted to have their say about why things went wrong in their marriage and found it therapeutic to do so.”

Rachel added: “Other newly introduced changes mean there is now a minimum period of 20 weeks, between starting proceedings and applying for a conditional order. This has been introduced in response to concerns that the reforms make divorce a quicker and easier option for couples and has been designed to encourage ‘meaningful’ reflection.

“Once the 20 weeks is up, there will then be a minimum wait of six weeks before a final order can be made, so divorcing will potentially now be slower than under the previous system. It’s also no longer possible to contest a divorce, except on limited grounds, including jurisdiction.”