The Queen’s Speech on 19th December confirmed the re-introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.
The current divorce law, which has been in place for almost 50 years, requires couples looking to divorce without two years of separation to file for a ‘fault-based’ divorce.
What is a fault-based divorce?
A fault-based divorce is actioned on the grounds of a person’s adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
Couples can also divorce based on a period of 2 years separation with both parties’ consent or 5 years separation without consent.
Therefore, even in circumstances where the spouses have separated amicably, unless one party can find reasons to blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage, a couple have to remain married for 2 years before they can file for divorce and finalise any financial agreement they may have reached with a court order.
No-fault divorce facilitates a quicker and less stressful divorce process
The current system often exacerbates the stress and tension couples experience on divorce and in turn can expose children to damaging conflict.
The new bill proposes that divorce laws in England and Wales are overhauled so couples can divorce more quickly with less acrimony.
Under the new legislation there will be an option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process. The sole ground for a divorce will be the ‘irretrievable breakdown of a marriage’ with a requirement to provide a statement of the irretrievable breakdown.
The proposed changes will also remove the ability of the other spouse to contest the divorce. The only way a party could now contest a divorce will be on the grounds of coercion, fraud, lack of jurisdiction or procedural irregularities.
The new process
The current two stage legal process currently referred to as Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute is retained but a minimum 20 week timeframe is being introduced to allow couples to reflect on the decision to divorce. They also have the option of counselling or mediation whilst they are in the period between issuing the Divorce Petition and the Decree Nisi being pronounced.
There will be a further minimum 6 week timeframe from the Decree Nisi stage to Decree Absolute so there will be a minimum of 6 months from the filing of the Petition to the final divorce.
How we can help
At Parrott & Coales, we know that divorce is not something our clients pursue lightly – this is particularly true for parents. It is hoped that the new legislation will enable divorcing couples to maintain a better relationship and shift the focus away from blame and towards resolution, with the parties able to focus on future financial and childcare arrangements.
The proposed legislation will not change the law in these areas and the family team at Parrott & Coales can provide clear and practical legal advice in all aspects of family law with the aim of allowing our clients to separate from their spouses with less acrimony.
To arrange an appointment with one of our Family Solicitors please contact us on 01296 318500.