England and Wales have
taken one step closer to removing the need to allege fault in a divorce.
The bill (the Divorce
Dissolution and Separation Bill) that is intended to update divorce law and
introduce “no fault divorce” passed its second reading in the House of Commons
on 8th June 2020 by 231 to 16 MPs. This is not a speedy change
rushed through but comes after family law bodies have spent many years
campaigning to change divorce law to prevent unnecessary allegations being made
at the start of a matter. It is hoped that this change will start cases off in
a more amicable manner preventing unnecessary litigation ensuing.
The change will mean
that the parties can apply to the Court for a divorce on the basis that the
marriage has irretrievably broken down. There will no longer be the requirement
to allege fault or to wait two years from the date of the separation. However,
the press are misreporting that this will lead to “quickie divorces” and make
it easier to get divorced. This is not correct, there is a mandatory period of
20 weeks from the date of the petition to the date you can apply for the Decree
Nisi and a further 6 weeks until your Decree Nisi would be able to made
absolute (final). The time that the divorce will take to go through the Courts
will therefore be at least 6 months. This is very similar to the time an
uncontested divorce currently takes.
The change is that no
allegations will have to be made regarding the reason for the breakdown, one
party does not have to feel they are being blamed for a mutual breakdown.
The hope is that marriages that have irretrievably broken down will be able to ended in a more amicable way which can only be better for the parties and any children who find themselves in that situation. Of course, child arrangements and the financial division of assets will still need to be resolved but if the right tone has been set this may be easier too. The bill will now proceed to the House of Commons committee stage and we will continue to monitor its progress. No date has yet been set for when this may become law but an important step towards this has been taken.
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