Many family practitioners in England & Wales have welcomed the news this morning that a no-fault divorce is a step closer to being implemented.
Although there have been talks of reform for a number of years, it finally looks like the government are making some progress in implementing changes to the 50 year old divorce laws, with parallel changes introduced for dissolution of civil partnerships.
The current divorce laws require applicants to provide 1 of the 5 facts as evidence that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. The 5 facts are as follows:
- 2 years separation with consent
- 5 years separation without consent
Three of the above facts are based on ‘fault’. The changes to the divorce laws mark the need to bring them in line with the 21st Century. More importantly, the government now recognises that the requirement to apportion blame causes a lot of hostility between the parties. This in turn, can have a negative impact on the children of the marriage.
The new proposals seek to keep the aspects of the law that work well whilst removing the obstacles to obtaining a more amicable divorce:
- The sole ground for divorce remains the same that the marriage has broken down irretrievably
- The petitioner will be required to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown rather than a statement of ‘fact’ evidencing the respondent’s behaviour or the time of separation
- The two stage legal process of obtaining both decree nisi and decree absolute remains. There has been the introduction of a 20 week period before the decree nisi is pronounced
- The period between decree nisi and pronouncement of decree absolute shall remain 6 weeks
- Parties will now have the opportunity to make a joint application for divorce, rather than leaving one party to initiate the process
James Myatt, Head of Personal Legal Services at GL said: “The Government’s announcement represents a welcome step forward to reducing conflict in divorce and separation.”
Despite the new reforms being publicised, there are still many questions left unanswered. The Justice Secretary David Gauke assures us the new legislation will be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows.