After much dithering over the last decade or more, with several articles appearing in the press over the years saying the divorce law as we currently know it is changing imminently, the amendments long anticipated and sought by Family Lawyers across England and Wales will be a step nearer following submission of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation bill to The House of Commons on the 8th of June for a second reading to be debated.
The Bill had its third reading in the House of Lords in March and the new divorce law is inching closer to being approved.
Briefly the current divorce and dissolution law, governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 and Civil Partnership Act 2004 states to show a marriage/civil partnership has irretrievably broken down, you must prove Adultery or unreasonable behaviour of the other party, have lived apart for two years (to which the other party still must agree to a divorce) lived apart for five years (no consent required by other party to a divorce) or your spouse has deserted you for two years or longer.
For many couples, having to fit one of the five facts listed to get your divorce or dissolution petition approved by the court can often be difficult and increase animosity between spouses when the focus should be on agreement, particularly in relation to children and finances, and reducing stress on both parties where possible.
Scotland introduced a no fault divorce law in 2006 and has helped separating and divorcing couples progress their divorce/dissolution in a kinder manner, reduce legal fees and enabled them to be able to focus instead of their children and financial division of assets.
The new divorce legislation that is in the House of Common today for its second reading, will hopefully come into force in the early part of 2021, and will remove entirely the need to provide a “reason” for the breakdown of a marriage. The only ground will be that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. The other party will no longer be able to defend a divorce submitted to the court, making the process less stressful.
This does not mean new divorce process will be any quicker and the new legislation will impose minimum timeframes with divorces taking at least 6 months to finalise.
You may wish to take advice about whether to wait for filing for a divorce, for the new legislation to be made law. Please do contact one of our experienced Family Lawyers at Howell Jones LLP to discuss further.