LEGAL EAGLE: Tis the season to be divorced!

Christmas is unfortunately not always the most wonderful time of the year. The divorce rate often sees a spike over the festive period.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 12:00 am

Official statistics show that there were 455 online divorce applications submitted to HM Courts & Tribunals Service between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day in 2019, with 13 of those completing the application on Christmas Day.

Whilst Christmas is usually a happy occasion for most, the festive period can cause additional pressure, both financially and emotionally, and exacerbate any pre-existing marital issues which may ultimately be the straw that broke the camel’s back in an already strained relationship.

There is only one ground for divorce in England and Wales: that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to prove this, a ‘petitioner’ - this being the spouse making the application for divorce - must rely on one of the following ‘facts’:

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- Adultery

- Unreasonable behaviour;

- Desertion

- 2 years’ separation with the party consenting to the issue of the petition; or 5 years separation

This continues to be the law in England and Wales, however this will be reformed in the near future. In June 2020, the government passed the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 to remove the concept of a ‘fault based divorce’. At present, if parties wish to divorce immediately, the petitioner would need to rely upon one of the fault based facts, either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Otherwise, the parties would be required to wait for a minimum period of 2 years before issuing divorce proceedings (providing that the respondent spouse consents to the proceedings). The government is currently working on the implementation of the new Act which will replace the above ‘facts’ with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

Unfortunately, it is anticipated that the new ‘no fault divorce’ will not be introduced until Autumn 2021 and parties must, therefore, continue to rely on the above facts when issuing divorce proceedings.

If you believe that your marriage has irretrievably broken down and wish to issue divorce proceedings immediately, it is highly recommended that you seek legal advice. Divorce can have wide ranging implications including, but not limited to, consequences as to aspects of property, pensions and inheritance.