The new 20-week reflection period in divorce
‘If a marriage has a pulse, it’s worth reviving’- A statement made by the somewhat bitter Countess in the first episode of the new season of BBC drama The Split, a series which depicts the trial and tribulations of divorce for all parties involved.
Whilst not all marriages are likely to be as volatile as the Countess’ and this statement is perhaps not true for many, arguably the remark sums up the thinking behind the introduction of a 20-week reflection period in the new No-Fault divorce law.
Before the introduction of No-Fault divorce last week, there was no requirement for a petitioner to wait a set period of time between the start of divorce proceedings and applying for Decree Nisi. So long as the respondent’s acknowledgement of service had been received and the respondent expressed no desire to defend the divorce, the petitioner could proceed to apply for Decree Nisi. In practice, however, due to the court backlog, it still took around 3-6 months to obtain the Decree Nisi.
Following this landmark change in law, the petitioner(s) must now wait a minimum of 20-weeks between the start of the divorce proceedings and the application for Conditional Order (previously known as Decree Nisi).
The idea of this is to provide couples with a meaningful period of reflection to truly consider whether they wish to proceed with the divorce and to explore any potential reconciliation. Indeed, many spouses act in haste and anger when divorcing. Time to think often encourages people to change their minds and ‘revive’ their marriage.
For those that have no desire to explore reconciliation and where divorce is inevitable, this time gives the parties an opportunity to cooperate amicably and plan for the future.
In total, it will now take 26 weeks from the divorce petition being issued before the Final Order (previously known as Decree Absolute) can be made.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.
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