The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has passed the parliamentary stages and is now awaiting royal assent. What does this mean for divorcing couples?
The new Bill introduces procedure which removes the ‘blame game’ and allows a spouse to obtain the divorce by making a unilateral declaration that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. There is no need to prove it on a fact and the other spouse will have no automatic right to defend the divorce petition. The current law requires the irretrievable breakdown to be proved on one of the following five facts: (1) adultery of the other party; (2) behaviour of the other party; (3) 2 years separation with consent of both parties; (4) 5 years separation without consent of other party; or (5) 2 years desertion by other party.
It will no longer be possible to contest the divorce except for any issues regarding jurisdiction, legality, fraud or coercion. Most welcome of all is the option for couples to jointly apply for a divorce where they have mutually decided to separate. The changes will apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships as well as divorcing couples.
Under the new procedure, Courts will be able to make a conditional order (the first stage of the divorce) 20 weeks after the commencement of proceedings with a further six weeks to decree absolute being made (the final decree which dissolves the marriage).
The Lord Chancellor has indicated that the reforms will be implemented from Autumn 2021. Until they are implemented, separating spouses and civil partners will have to use the existing procedure.
The changes will not make it any easier to divorce, but they will help make the process kinder on separating families.
If you require any assistance or have any questions, please contact our family team.