The new ‘no-fault’ divorce

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Changes to the divorce process to help make it less painful

On 8 June 2020, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was considered in Parliament, and overwhelmingly backed by MPs. The bill, once implemented, will introduce so-called ‘no-fault’ divorces.

Currently if a couple wishes to divorce, they have to base their petition on one of five facts; adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent, 5 years separation or desertion.

Someone wishing to obtain a divorce without the consent of their spouse must live apart from them for five years. The bill removes the possibility of contesting the divorce but divorce proceedings will still be challengeable on certain grounds including fraud and coercion.

Very often, we as family lawyers are faced with a situation whereby a couple has separated quite amicably, and reached an agreement regarding finances. They wish to have their agreement endorsed by the court in the form of a Consent Order so that it is legally binding. This can only be done once the divorce has reached the Decree Nisi stage. If the couple have not been separated for more than 2 years, they then have to decide who to blame for the end of the marriage. This can cause unnecessary acrimony between the parties.

Another aspect of the bill to note is that it replaces the terms “decree nisi” and “decree absolute” with “conditional order” and “final order” and “Petitioners” will become “applicants”.

Under the new ‘no-fault’ regime, a couple will be able to apply jointly for a divorce on the basis that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, although there must be a minimum six-month period between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.

These changes to the process should help to make the it less painful for the parties involved. An acrimonious divorce can very often have a knock on effect in respect of financial matters or issues involving children, so the change to the divorce process is certainly a positive step in my view.

For further help and advice concerning court hearings please contact our Family Team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].

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