The Ministry of Justice confirmed that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill entered Parliament on 7 January 2020. The Bill seeks to introduce a ‘no fault divorce’ in England and Wales, whereby couples can get divorced without blaming the other party.
Our Family Law Team look at this new law and what it means for separating couples.
This is great news for those in Family Law who have been campaigning for years for such a change, particularly as this Bill was first introduced to Parliament in June 2019 but was halted due to the prorogation of Parliament. See our earlier ‘Planned Reform of No-Fault Divorce Halted’ article for details.
Presently, demonstrating irretrievable breakdown of a marriage requires at least two years of separation or one spouse to ‘blame’ the other for the breakdown in the marriage. There is no other way to divorce.
Divorce is a very difficult and painful time for families even when the decision to divorce is reached mutually. Many have campaigned that this process needs to be changed as it encourages conflict between divorcing couples as one party has to blame the other if they do not want to wait two years before getting divorced.
The current process is often criticized as it can be damaging to divorcing couples with children. Hostility between parents is harmful to children and can cause long term social, emotional and mental health problems. Increasing animosity between couples can also make it harder for them to come to an agreement amicably in regard to how the money accrued during the marriage is to be split.
The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will remove the need to blame a party and it will also mean that a respondent cannot contest a divorce if the other party wants it. In some cases, the ability to contest a divorce has allowed perpetrators of domestic abuse to continue to exert control over their spouse after separation. There would also be an introduction of a 20-week period from the petition stage to decree nisi stage, when the court grants the provisional decree of divorce. Therefore, under these reforms, there would still be ample time for both parties to reflect on whether divorce is the right option before it being finalized.
Of course there will still be cases where behaviour is the cause for the breakdown. However, when the reforms come in there will be a choice, giving individuals much more control over this stressful period of their lives.
Pinney Talfourd’s highly experienced Family Law Team believe that this change in the law is great news for fairness and progress. It will provide clients with greater options to help achieve a good and fair outcome with as little emotional bruising as possible.
Our specialist divorce lawyers are recognised in Tier 1 Legal 500 UK with excellent reputations and invaluable experience. We are members of Resolution and already offer a collaborative approach to family law wherever possible, which will be further enhanced by this update to the law.
This article was written by Yanoulla Kakoulli, Senior Associate in the Family Law Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of January 2020.