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Welcome Update on No Fault Divorce

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was passed in the House of Commons on 17 June 2020 and is a long awaited development by lawyers and various family law organisations and charities.  This means that the much talked about ‘no fault’ divorce could start in Autumn 2021 and will bring our current divorce laws into the 21st century.

At present, a couple wishing to divorce must wait at least 2 years to be able to issue a divorce petition on a ‘no fault’ basis.  The only alternative is to issue a petition blaming the other party for the breakdown of the marriage.   This can lead to significant animosity between the parties which can place emotional and financial burdens upon them when dealing with other aspects of the marriage.

The new ‘no fault’ divorce will:-

  • Replace the current ‘five facts’ with a statement of irretrievably breakdown of the marriage. It will also remove the possibility of the divorce being contested.
  • Give parties the option to petition for divorce jointly.
  • Include a period of reflection to allow separating couples time to consider their position and obtain the legal advice they need. Domestic violence applications or applications that relate to children in a divorce should be available during this reflection period.
  • Also apply to parties wishing to dissolve civil partnerships
  • Replace the current ‘legal jargon’ with plain English, such as changing ‘decree nisi’ to ‘conditional order’ and ‘decree absolute’ to ‘final order’, making it easier for parties entering into the process.

The new divorce law will provide a dignified approach to divorce and is likely to reduce the impact upon children of divorcing parents and will put the parties in a better position to agree child arrangements and financial matters amicably.

Lawyers, organisations and charities have been campaigning for a change in the current divorce laws for many years and the need for change was highlighted in the Supreme Court ruling in Owens v Owens [2018] which led to the Ministry of Justice announced it would look at reforms in respect of the current law.

If you would like further advice in connection with the matters raised in this article then please contact Severine Vincent or Kerri Gregory in our family department on 01926 422 101.

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