The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 to come into force on 6 April 2022
The highly anticipated Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (DDSA) 2020, hailed as the biggest reform in divorce law in 50 years, is set to come into force on 6 April 2022 after receiving Royal Assent on 25 June 2021. The Act seeks to reduce conflict between couples who wish to end their marriage or civil partnership, reduce the blame game, and remove the concept of fault in divorces.
The DDSA 2020 provides reforms to the legal requirements and process for divorce, dissolution and judicial separation, and also removes the requirement to provide evidence for one of the five facts, when the sole ground for divorce, the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, has been satisfied.
The five facts (adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, agreement of parties with two years’ separation or a request by one party after five years’ separation) will be replaced with one single mechanism with either one or both parties to marriage or civil partnership stating that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
When the DDSA 2020 comes into force, no evidence is needed to support the breakdown of the marriage and it will allow both parties to make a joint application for divorce proceedings, where the decision to divorce is mutual.
It removes the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce and will allow for courts to take the statement of irretrievable breakdown as conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The DDSA 2020 will introduce a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of the proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made.
The new laws within the DDSA 2020 seeks to align the divorce law process with the government’s approach within family law, while encouraging a forward-looking non-confrontational approach wherever possible and reducing conflict and its damaging effect on children.
The introduction of this new reform helps avoid costly and distressing litigation, as seen in Owens v Owens  UKSC 41, which reinvigorated calls for ‘no-fault divorce’ after Ms Owens appeal was dismissed as the interpretation of behaviour goes too far and narrow and that minor altercations of the kind demonstrated by Ms Owens were the kind to be expected in marriage.
The DDSA 2020 is the biggest reform in divorce law and seeks to end the blame game, while making it easier to obtain a divorce without having to evidence one of the five facts. It is regarded as a well overdue reform that will bring an outdated and old-fashioned system more in line with modern life and relationships.