Want a divorce? Why the new Act will not make it quicker [Updated 29 June 2020]

At LGFL, we don’t often advocate a speedy approach to divorce. However, for couples who are considering separating, now may be the right time to act, as the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 is now law.

The Act is a major achievement offering couples a ‘no fault’ divorce. Under the new Act, couples can simply state that: “The marriage has broken down irretrievably” rather than allocate blame or wait for years. Currently there are five grounds for divorce, three of which require the allocation of blame.

As Margaret Heathcote, chair of family law group Resolution says, this enables married couples to separate ‘As constructively and amicably as possible, minimising the impact on any children they may have’.


Too long to wait?

No-fault divorce is a very welcome change to our outdated divorce laws, but it comes at a cost – it takes longer. The ‘blame game’ system is never pleasant, and the choice to wait and not allocate blame should be weighed up against the new, extended timescales.

So, if you have definitely decided you want to divorce, call us. We can start the divorce process while the timescales stand, helping you both move forward with your lives.


All change - and quickly

The new legislation will extend the minimum time from divorce petition to decree nisi (now known as the conditional divorce order) to 20 weeks. It is currently about 12 weeks.

There’s also an additional 6 weeks to add between decree nisi (conditional divorce order) and decree absolute (divorce order).

It’s important to note that the new 20 weeks period starts when you file for divorce NOT, as in some other countries, when you first consider divorce. Also, the clock starts ticking when the application is made, not when the respondent receives it. The government press release on the new Act says that it:

"Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made, allowing greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable."

The Committee of MPs who scrutinised the Bill on Weds 17 June suggested a 'further' extension to the timescales, extending the 20 week period to a considerably longer 46 weeks. Luckily, this amendment was withdrawn and the Bill was passed with just a single amendment the next day. The Bill was then passed, and given Royal assent on 26 June 2020.

No-fault divorce starts in autumn 2021 - probably

These new changes outlined in the Bill are not going to happen quite yet, however. Lord chancellor Robert Buckland has said there will be a delay before it comes into force because “Time needs to be allowed for careful implementation’" Given the major changes required to the whole system of divorce, the government press release on the new Act advises that: "The changes will not come into effect until later next year to allow careful implementation of the necessary changes to court, online and paper processes."


If you feel that is too long to wait, call us. We offer an initial 1-hour consultation with 30 minutes included free, so you have time to really talk through your situation and your options.