NO FAULT DIVORCE - Update on proposed changes

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09 January, 2020

In May of last year Forbes reported on the Governments response to a Consultation that would radically change the current, out of date, divorce procedure (Read article here). At the time of reporting the legislation was to be introduced "as soon as parliamentary time allowed".

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has now entered Parliament as of 7th January 2020. The Bill has been described as the "biggest shake-up of divorce laws in half a century" and it is hoped that it will bring divorce law in line with the Governments approach to family justice - avoiding confrontation and reducing the damaging effect on couples and in particular, children.

At present, one spouse has to make accusations of the others "unreasonable behaviour" or "adultery" in any divorce petition, or otherwise face years of separation before the Court will grant a divorce regardless of whether both parties agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. To put that in to perspective, just under half of all applications (47.1%) between 2016-2018 cited the other party at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

The new law will remove the "fault-based" divorce and allow a party - or both parties jointly- to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown. It will also remove the option of contesting the divorce. Whilst contested divorces are somewhat rare the Government has recognised that this has, on occasion, allowed domestic abusers to exercise further coercive control over their victim.

The Bill is also set to introduce a 20 week period between the initial petition stage and the pronouncement of Decree Nisi. It is thought that this will allow couples a meaningful period of reflection and better enable them to cooperate and make arrangements for the future.

The Bill has been welcomed by the family law community who have been campaigning for such a change. Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP has said "The institution of marriage will always be vitally important, but we must never allow a situation where our laws exacerbate conflict and harm a child's upbringing."

For more information contact Adrienne Baker in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01254 580 000. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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