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Divorce rates fall as date for no fault divorce looms

Harjit Rait | Divorce rates fall as date for no fault divorce loomsAccording to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), divorce rates fell during the year of the first lockdowns, despite widespread predictions that they would rise due to the stresses and strains placed on couples by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ONS states that in 2020 there were 103,592 divorces granted in England and Wales, a decrease of 4.5 per cent on the previous year.

Partner in LCF Law’s Family Law team Harjit Rait said: “Some legal firms reported they were experiencing a 40% increase in divorce enquiries during the lockdowns, with couples citing financial woes and being stuck in close confinement as reasons for separation. We experienced a 25 per cent increase in enquiries during 2020, but not all related to divorce.

“One area that we experienced more enquiries about in particular, was in relation to the contact arrangements for children, where parties were already separated, but were not sure how to navigate the confusing and ever-changing rules around lockdown, isolation and bubbles.

“The majority of the clients we helped said that their decision to divorce was impacted by lockdown. Many found that problems in relationships that were probably there all along were brought to the forefront by lockdown, due to the extra pressure of home schooling, no space from each other and money concerns. Most clients were still keen to avoid a court battle where possible, which resulted in more mediation work.”

The figures from the ONS also revealed that there was a rise of more than 40 per cent in same-sex couples divorces – rising from 822 in 2019 to 1,154 in 2020. Of these, 71 per cent were divorces between female couples.

Harjit added: “The number of same sex divorce cases we have advised on has increased in line with the ONS figure, and we expect to see a further increase in those figures when the new no-fault divorce law comes into effect on 6th April under the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020. When talking to clients this year, we have found that some couples are happy to wait until April, but others are pushing ahead to divorce right away.”

No Fault Divorce

The changes are the biggest shake up of divorce law for 50 years. It will allow married couples to divorce without assigning blame. The new legislation will remove the need for evidence of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour in divorce proceedings.

Harjit concluded: “It is hoped that the new no fault divorce law will reduce the acrimony that often arises, particularly when the fault-based grounds of behaviour and adultery are contested, as this results in unnecessary legal costs and delays. Not having to assign blame should therefore reduce conflict, which is a really positive step forward, but there will still be cases where separating parties do not agree.

“If anyone wishes to choose one of the five current reasons for a divorce, which are unreasonable behaviour, adultery, two years’ separation if both parties consent, five years’ separation if one party objects, or desertion, they will need to do so well in advance of 6 April 2022. After that date, all applications will need to be made via an online portal.”

What can we do to help?

LCF Law offers a collaborative approach to divorce, which means clients can avoid going to court, in the majority of cases.

To find out more contact Harjit Rait on 01274 386 598 or at ku.oc1717055401.fcl@1717055401tiarh1717055401

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