No-fault divorce update: Is the ‘blame game’ set to end?
Divorce law in England and Wales could be set for a major overhaul with proposals for couples to no longer be required to prove fault to get divorced.
The government first announced proposals to reform divorce law in April 2019 in an attempt to simplify the divorce process.
The proposed divorce reforms were delayed due to December’s General Election, however the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has now been revived.
What are the current rules for getting divorced?
Under current rules, the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
To demonstrate that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, one partner will have to prove one of the following five facts:
- Unreasonable Behaviour
- Two years’ separation with consent
- Five years’ separation with no consent required
This means that if adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion cannot be proven, couples may have to wait up to 5 years before they can begin divorce proceedings.
How will no-fault divorces change this?
The introduction of no-fault divorces would mean that one spouse will still need to state that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
However, the requirement to provide evidence of one of the five facts above will be replaced with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
The requirement for a separated couple to wait 2 or 5 years to begin divorce proceedings will also be replaced with a 26-week notice period.
Separating couples will also have the option to file joint divorce petitions, meaning the divorce proceedings can begin with both parties in agreement.
What impact will the changes have?
The current fault-based divorce system is now seen by many to increase the stress of what is already a difficult time.
The requirement to prove a fault-based fact or wait up to 5 years to start divorce proceedings can increase tensions between couples.
This can be damaging especially when children are involved, making it more difficult to focus on the needs of children amicably.
The introduction of no-fault divorces hopes to allow people to resolve issues in a non-confrontational manner, as partners will no longer have to apportion blame or prove between 2 and 5 years separation.
When will no-fault divorce rules be introduced?
Currently, there is is no specific date for the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.
However, the Bill is set to enter committee stage in the House of Lords on 3rd March 2020. This is where a Bill is considered line-by-line and is an opportunity for changes in wording or the addition of new clauses.
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