The UK Government has been planning the reform of the current divorce process for some time now. We first wrote about this in June 2019. The biggest change is to remove the necessity for either or both parties to claim a ‘fault’ with the other if they wish to divorce.
The current process has often been dubbed the “blame game” divorce and has been heavily criticised for years for the antagonism it causes between separating couples and their children.
What Will the new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act Mean?
- No Blame Game – The current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of either adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour will not be necessary.
- Give Notice Jointly – Couples will for the first time be able to make a joint statement on the breakdown of the marriage. This replaces the necessity for one party to ‘petition’ and the other ‘respond’ which makes the process more lengthy and appear that one party is actioning the process without the consent of the other.
- No Mutual Agreement Required – The new divorce process will also negate the necessity for mutual agreement of both parties on the divorce or any aspect of it. The opportunity to contest the decision to divorce will be removed, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
- Faster Process – A new minimum period of 20 weeks will be introduced from the start of proceedings to confirm to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made. This will allow greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation has not been possible and a divorce is inevitable. The existing law created a very long drawn out process for couples who did not want to apportion blame: Separation of more than two years (if spouse agrees to the divorce) or a separation of at least five years (if spouse disagrees with the divorce).
The new laws will reduce conflict and the damaging effect this has on all parties including the children. The aim is to align the divorce law process with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law – which is to encourage a forward-looking non-confrontational approach wherever possible.
Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP said:
“The institution of marriage will always be upheld, but when divorce cannot be avoided the law should not exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing.
These new laws will stop separating couples having to make needless allegations against one another, and instead help them focus on resolving their issues amicably.”
When will the New Divorce Law Be Passed?
Whilst significant progress has been made and the proposed legislation to remove fault has passed through the House of Commons (17th June 2020). It must still return to the House of Lords before receiving Royal assent. The current proposed implementation period is for the Autumn of 2021.
So, unfortunately if you are hoping to be able to proceed with a ‘no fault’ divorce, you will have to wait until the end of next year.
Always Putting the Children First
Here at Progressive Mediation we are overjoyed to see the bill go through the first part of its parliamentary journey. As family mediators we know only too well the heartache and conflict that can be caused during a marriage breakdown with the divorce law only increasing that discord. Every effort should be made at all stages of separation to keep the lines of communication open between parents so that they can make the best decisions for their children together.
Do You Need Mediation To Resolve Divorce Conflict?
We are experienced family mediators and can provide MIAMs and family mediation sessions via Skype, Zoom and video conferencing. If you would like to find out more, please call us on 0788 903 9393 and we will advise you on the best course of action for your circumstances.