As we await the emotional fallout from compulsory lockdown during the pandemic, many bystanders are predicting an uptick in divorce filings. This week, a bill making the dissolution of marriages more straightforward cleared a major hurdle.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will shake up the divorce laws in England & Wales, providing a huge change to the way in which divorce is approached. It is set to remove the requirement for couples to place the blame on one party in order to avoid a lengthy delay to the divorce. The bill, which originated in the House of Lords and which introduces “no-fault” divorces was backed by MPs, passing its first hurdle in the Commons by 231 aye votes to 16 nays.
Currently, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is proved by relying upon one of 5 conduct-based facts:
- unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years separation with the consent of both parties
- 5 years separation without consent
In some cases, waiting 2 years to divorce post-separation is simply not financially possible, forcing one spouse to have to rely on a fault-based reason within the divorce petition.
In our article on 13th December 2018 we reviewed the impact of the fault-based divorce system, particularly on children, and the fact that in many cases it automatically creates animosity between the parties even in circumstances where they both agree to divorce and have every intention from the outset to do so amicably.
Within the current procedure, should the person petitioning for divorce rely on a conduct-based fact within the petition, they have to provide a statement setting out evidence of the conduct; the element of the petition that inevitably creates the most animosity and causes some divorces to become defended.
Under the new rules, the individual does not have to provide such detailed evidence but instead can simply provide a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There is also a new option for couples to provide a joint statement and apply jointly for divorce.
The bill replaces the terms “decree nisi” and “decree absolute” with “conditional order” and “final order”. “Petitioners” will also become “applicants”. Under the proposals, there must be a minimum six-month period between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.
Couples will also have the option to file a joint application in cases where the decision to divorce is mutual. This prevents them having to wait 2 years or, from one spouse relying on the other’s conduct as a means of petitioning for divorce creating unnecessary animosity. It is anticipated this will also encourage parties to reach a financial settlement more quickly and cost-effectively given that communications between spouses will, it is hoped, remain more amicable throughout the process. It is also hoped that children of divorcing couples will benefit from less tension between parents who choose to mutually separate.
This development will go some way towards counteracting many of the problems within the divorce system that have been in place for many years. It is hoped that couples and children will benefit from the changes both emotionally and financially.
If you are considering divorce proceedings and wish to talk through your situation to determine whether you could petition for divorce, please call our Laura Ware on 01732 525923 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to discuss this with you.
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