No Fault Divorce
Posted on July 18th 2019
The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill was before the Houses of Commons on the 13.6.10. This is a landmark Bill which will create “no fault divorce in England and Wales”. The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill will reform the 50 year old Divorce Laws, namely the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. This comes after a joint campaign for reform which has been ongoing for many years.
No fault divorce: “Removing unnecessary mudslinging”
David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, states “marriage will always be a vitally important institution in society but, when a relationship breaks down, it cannot be right that the Law adds fuel to the fire by incentivizing couples to blame each other”. He went on say that “by removing the unnecessary mudslinging that the current process can needlessly rake up, will make sure the Law plays its part in allowing couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible”. If this Bill passes, then spouses will only have to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, which can be a joint statement. It prevents the need for one party to petition for divorce on the basis of a “fault-based” divorce, namely adultery or unreasonable behavior. It has become increasingly evident that “no fault” divorces often take much longer than “fault-based” divorce as couples are having to try to prove that they have lived apart for at least 2 years to enable them to petition for divorce if they do not seek to rely on adultery or unreasonable behavior. This is unreasonable and unfair on all those involved.
Unable to divorce on grounds of unhappiness
In the extremely renowned recent case of Tina Owens, she sought to petition for divorce against her husband of 40 years on the grounds that she was unhappy, and this was refused unanimously by the Supreme Court on appeal, it meant that she was unable to divorce her husband and they remain married until 2020. It is cases like this one which have led to the recognition that the current Laws in relation to divorce proceedings are archaic and no longer appropriate.
Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill
It is hoped that the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill will change or remove conflict for people and it will align the Law with a non-confrontational approach which Parliament has enacted in other areas of Family Law. Amongst its measures, the bill will replace the requirement to prove spousal conduct or that the couple have been separated for at least 2 years with the requirement to file a statement of irretrievable breakdown or the marriage or Civic Partnership. It will also introduce a new minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and confirmation to the court that the Conditional Order should be made. This will make the period before the Conditional Order was granted, longer for most people and so to allow better opportunity for reflecting on the decision to divorce and, where this is inevitable, agreeing practical arrangements for the future.
In granting this Bill, it should be noted that it is not about making the decision to divorce or to dissolve a civil partnership easier. This will remain one of the hardest decisions that anyone can take. However, it is about reforming those elements of the current legal system which effectively exacerbate conflict between spouses and cause unnecessary distress at times which are already of extreme difficulty to people.
It is extremely pleasing to note that the Government have finally got on board with changing the legislation and listening to the voices of those who are facing these difficult decisions on a day to day basis.
Bill welcomed by many family experts
Many family experts are extremely welcoming of this Bill and feel that it has been a long time coming. Margaret Heathcote, the Chair of Family Law Group Resolution, said “every day, our members are helping people through separation, taking a constructive non-confrontational approach in line with our code of practice. However, because of our outdated Divorce Laws, they have been working with one arm tied behind their backs”.
It is an extremely positive step that this matter is now being progressed into a Bill which will soon become Law and enable divorce proceedings to be hopefully a much less adversarial and acrimonious process. The decision to divorce is one of the hardest decisions any person has to face during their lifetime and anything that can be done to make it easier for them when they are going through the process is very much welcomed. It is hoped that the change in Law, once granted, will make a genuine difference to many families and in particular the children that inevitably get caught up in the process.
Second reading of the Bill
As yet, no date has been announced for the Bill’s second reading, but it is hoped that it will be in the near future so the Law can be passed and these changes can be put into practice as soon as possible.
If you are considering divorce and are looking to obtain advice on this or any other family matter then please do not hesitate to contact our family department who would be happy to help.
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