Latest news on the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020
Following agreement by both Houses on the text of the Bill it received Royal Assent on 25 June.
The Bill is now an Act of Parliament (law).
These reforms have been long awaited and Resolution, family lawyers and others have campaigned for the changes. The Law Society said “‘no-fault’ divorce will bring divorce law into the 21st century.” It is anticipated that the no fault divorce will make the process less acrimonious and more dignified for the many (approx. 100,000) couples who divorce each year.
Under current law it is usual for one party to be ‘at fault’ to meet the requirements of the grounds for divorce which are adultery, unreasonable behaviour and desertion unless couples both agree to wait and apply after 2 years separation or 5 years if only one party agrees. At present the other party can contest the divorce. The blame or fault requirement often leads to conflict and the divorce becomes acrimonious making an already difficult situation worse. Focussing on the fault can often make resolving the more important issues difficult. It is particularly important to keep the divorce as amicable as possible where children are concerned, as the parents need to have a continuing relationship to deal with their future arrangements as separated parents.
Couples will now be able to petition for divorce jointly without having to apportion blame to one party to support the grounds for divorce. Under the reforms Irretrievable Breakdown becomes the sole reason and either party can state that the marriage is over and the other party will no longer be able to contest the divorce
There has been opposition by some to the Bill as it was viewed as opening the process up to the ‘quickie divorce’. However minimum timeframes will still apply to the process to give couples time to be certain that divorce is the right step.
It is anticipated that there will still be some delay before the reforms come into effect as implementation will take time. New court forms and revisions to the online portal will need to be reviewed as part of implementation. Autumn 2021 appears to be the timeframe being referred to.
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