COVID-19 prompted a dramatic shift in the way we live our lives, from hybrid home-office working and renewed importance on local communities, to increasing unemployment and growing mistrust in governments. In the aftermath of these big social changes, there is a new transformation on the horizon.
If you are considering divorce, then reading up on the details of the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 in the Wiselaw no fault guide will give you a clear picture on what to expect. However, in this article, we look at how the pandemic, and the new no-fault divorce laws together are signalling a shakeup in today’s culture.
An increase in divorce rates
It is expected that divorce rates will rise in the coming years. But why? What is driving this potential upsurge? Following periods of extended lockdowns spouses had time to reflect on life’s priorities, with some couples finding their marriages no longer served them. According to the Office of National Statistics, there was an increase of 9.6% in granted divorces from 2020 to 2021. While some couples savoured more time with their spouse, it had the reverse effect on others.
The pandemic’s impact
New demands on working from home, money pressures and home-schooling also had an impact on the quality of relationships. The pandemic prompted people to think differently about the direction of their life, with some people able to work from home, they decided to move out of cities or seek change through new romantic relationships or a change in career. The extra time for contemplation also caused some to consider divorce more seriously, with the opportunity for divorce increasing due to the introduction of no-fault divorce.
What are the new divorce laws?
Prior to April 2022, couples who wanted to divorce had to place blame on the other party. In other words, they had to detail that the marriage had broken down because of the others’ fault, using one of the five grounds for divorce. These were: desertion, unreasonable behaviour, adultery, or separation after two or five years.
Those seeking a divorce would have to decide who was going to take the ‘blame’ for the divorce. However, this is no longer necessary. Divorcing partners can now divorce through a joint application and they can also cite ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the reason for the divorce, instead of one of the five grounds. The aim is to bring in a more amicable divorce procedure so that couples can part ways simply and limit any emotional damage to children involved.
The impact of the new laws
During the pandemic, there was also a rise in domestic abuse cases, believed to be as a result of lockdowns. The new laws introduced are hoped to go some way in supporting victims of domestic abuse. Unlike the old laws, divorces can no longer be contested – an element which historically allowed abusers to continue to coercively control their spouse throughout proceedings.
Despite the positive changes, opposers of the reforms believe that there will now be a big rise in divorces, with spouses supposing the new process will be quicker. However, the new law also introduces a 20-week reflection period after a divorce has been initiated. This timeframe has been introduced to offer couples the chance to consider their decision to divorce and/or make plans for their living arrangements and other practicalities.
Although there was an immediate spike in divorces following COVID-19 lockdowns, thanks to the timing of the new divorce reforms in 2022, and easier access to a more simple and amicable divorce, the number of cases still has the potential to rise again in coming years.