Should I wait until after 6 April 2022 to get divorced?
New Divorce law comes into effect on 6 April 2022. Should you wait until then to present your petition?
We have been waiting years for the new divorce law which will come into effect on 6 April 2022. Solicitors practising in this area of law almost universally welcome the changes. At last the old-fashioned grounds of divorce (adultery, unreasonable behaviour etc) will be consigned to history, and the law will fully recognise that marriage breakdown, and the issues it brings, have to be addressed in a constructive and conciliatory way.
So we fully support the changes, and in principle if you haven’t already presented a divorce petition we would recommend you to think carefully about waiting until after 6 April 2022 and use the new laws, unless there is some particular need for urgency.
But we have to sound a note of caution. Over the past couple of years the process for applying for a divorce has become heavily IT-based. We no longer send paper petitions into the court office – the information needed for your petition is uploaded directly onto the court system using HMCTS IT platform. For the last year or so the system has worked very well, but there were teething problems when it was first introduced. The staff in the Court service are, no doubt, working hard on their IT system to make sure that it is fully functioning when it goes live on 6 April 2022. But as with all IT changes there may be teething problems which need to be ironed out. And it is quite likely there will be a bit of a rush with more applications than usual in the early weeks because we know that a lot of people are choosing to wait for the new rules to come into effect.
So, there is a risk that the system will crash and those divorces presented in the early days and weeks after 6 April 2022 may get caught up in a delay. If you are able to do so, it may be wise to wait a week or two after the start date at least, to see how things play out.
The court IT system will be closed down on 30 March 2022, so they can make the changes they need ready to go live on 6 April 2022. At least in theory it will not be possible to apply for a divorce at all during that time, although we are told that there will be a paper system in place for those relatively few cases where there is genuine urgency. If you want to go ahead under the old rules you will need to upload your divorce petition before 30 March.
There must be some system in place to make sure that petition is presented under the old rules, are properly processed through the courts even after 6 April 2022. And in the meantime the court staff are working hard, we are told, to deal with as many as possible before that date.
Health Warning :This post is intended as a general guide only – divorce law can be a very complicated subject, and getting it wrong lead to expensive mistakes so it is important to obtain expert advice about your own situation, I can certainly accept no responsibility for any loss you might suffer as a result of relying purely on the information on this website.
John Pratley is an expert divorce lawyer, who has more than 25 years’ experience advising clients purely about divorce and related family law issues, such as the financial consequences of separating and divorcing. After establishing the first niche family law practice in Bristol, and going on to senior management roles in a national firm, John set up Apple Tree Family Law in 2018. Apple Tree Family Law solicitors specialise in advice about divorce and financial issues.
We are based in Bristol and Exeter, but we have clients all over the UK and further afield. We offer, simply, clear and accurate advice about divorce and family law issues, and the very best client service, for a clear and reasonable price.