What difference will new divorce terminology really make?

Mon 4th Apr 2022

Coodes Solicitors Family lawyer Karen Pritchard outlines changes to divorce terminology, which will update the legal language used in divorce cases.

On 6 April 2022, for the first time in 50 years, The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act will be enshrined in law, overhauling and modernising the divorce process in England and Wales. The biggest change is, of course, the introduction of a no fault divorce. A less high profile but important element of the Bill is a long overdue update of the archaic legal terminology used when couples divorce or dissolve civil partnerships.

New divorce terminology

The following words and phrases will change from 6 April onwards.

Old language New terminology

Divorce petition Divorce application

Petitioner Applicant 1

Respondent Applicant 2

Decree nisi Conditional order

Decree absolute Final order

Perhaps the most radical change is that there is no longer the need to use the terminology such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour. These will be replaced with one phrase, which is that a marriage has “broken down irretrievably”. This change complements the introduction of a no fault divorce, which means that a couple can simply agree to divorce without one having to blame the other on one of five grounds.

This new terminology reflects the shift in divorce, away from one person pointing the finger of blame at the other and towards a couple mutually agreeing to end the marriage. It also reflects the move towards a simpler approach to divorce, which the Act is intended to promote. It means that the same terms will be used for both divorce and dissolution of civil partnerships.

What difference will the change in language make?

I welcome the introduction of new language, which is clearer and more accessible for divorcing couples. After all, the divorce system is not for the lawyers but should support families, and complex and old fashioned legal jargon can act as a barrier.

This change in terminology provides an opportunity to bring about a culture change, removing the technical terms and jargon which are often misused, misunderstood and promote conflict which negatively impact on families and in particular, children. Along with the introduction of a no fault divorce, removing the words ‘petitioner’ and ‘respondent’ takes away the idea of one person divorcing the other.

At Coodes, we have always supported divorcing couples to avoid unnecessary conflict. This new divorce terminology will help to underline the importance of taking a practical approach to divorce, rather than promoting blame and discord.

For more information or advice on these issues, please contact Karen Pritchard in the Family Team on 01872 246200 or karen.pritchard@coodes.co.uk

Mon 4th Apr 2022

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