Provisions in the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 will not go live at the end of the year as planned, following the need to streamline the online divorce platform and give the courts and tribunals service time to implement the legal changes.
The Act simplifies language used in divorce proceedings, removes an immediate requirement to demonstrate fault in divorce petitions and bars the opposing spouse from contesting divorce proceedings.
The pushed back timeline was confirmed following a written question tabled on May 25 and put to the Ministry of Justice about the commencement of the Act’s provisions, by Conservative MP Jane Stevenson.
Replying to the question, Chris Philp MP said:
“The Ministry of Justice is committed to ensuring that the amended digital service allows for a smooth transition from the existing service which has reformed the way divorce is administered in the courts and improved the service received by divorcing couples at a traumatic point in their lives. Following detailed design work, it is now clear that these amendments, along with the full and rigorous testing of the new system ahead of implementation, will not conclude before the end of the year.
The Government recognises the need for clarity on when these important reforms will come into force. This will now be on the common commencement date of 6 April 2022. While this delay is unfortunate it is essential that we take the time to get this right. The new divorce process will work to reduce conflict, which is especially damaging for children, and will reflect work the Government are undertaking through the Reducing Parental Conflict programme. That programme will build the evidence on what works to reduce harmful levels of parental conflict below the threshold of domestic abuse, working with local areas to help them embed support in their local services for families. We will also use this opportunity to strengthen signposting to family mediation as a means to resolve arrangements for children and the division of assets on divorce.”
A helpful summary of the current law, and the new Act can be found in this article by law firm Streathers.