The long-awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received Royal Assent in June 2020 but, the big question remained, when will the Act be introduced?
On 7 June 2021, ministers finally confirmed that the Act will come into force on 6th April 2022.
This is a welcome relief for family lawyers who have been campaigning for decades for a reform the current law, to allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame. This is the biggest shake-up to the divorce system in over 50 years.
Whilst it is fantastic news that we finally have a date in place, it might be said that this is bittersweet, when we had hoped that the new law would be introduced in the Autumn this year, following initial indications.
The reform is long overdue and it is crucial that married couples are able to divorce as amicably as possible and avoid the needless apportionment of blame, during what may already be a difficult time for the parties and any children.
Not only is the delay disappointing for many couples who had perhaps decided to hold off initiating divorce proceedings with the Autumn date in mind; we understand that the reasoning behind this is to ensure that there is enough time to update the online IT systems.
Judges and family lawyers know all too well, that there have been technical difficulties with the current system, which transitioned online during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and it is essential that the IT system is able to cope with the changes.
However, for married couples, an "IT-related" delay of nearly 6 months is simply too long to wait, particularly for couples who wanted to proceed on a "no-fault" basis and thus, avoid an unnecessary stumbling block that might arise in apportioning blame against the other, in order to get the divorce underway.