Changes to Divorce Laws: A Step Closer

15th June 2020


On Monday 8th June, the Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill was debated in Parliament for its second reading and what a welcome result for family lawyers across the country who have been calling for a change in legislation to remove fault from our divorce laws. To quote Nigel Shepherd of Mills and Reeve’s tweet, “Ayes to the right 231. No’s to the left 16. The Ayes have it, the Ayes have it. Unlock. Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passes its second reading”.

It has been a long and hard road to change the divorce laws with Resolution-First for Family Law continuing to call for change to ensure that separating couples are able to proceed with their law without the need to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage. The blame game has often seen other aspects of the separation become fraught such as the resolution of financial matters and agreeing arrangement for children. These disagreements often lead to proceedings with protracted litigation and costs.

The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill will do away with the requirement to establish fault and either or both parties to the marriage may apply for a divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage only. The application for the divorce must include a statement from the applicant or applicants that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

Not every client that I see wants to blame their spouse for the breakdown of their marriage i.e. by issuing the divorce proceedings based on the fact of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Sometimes it is a case of the parties having drifted apart and they amicably want to divorce and remain friends. For these couples, the current law means that they must wait until they have been separated for two years to then bring a petition relying on the fact of two years separation coupled with consent. The change in law will benefit these couples as they can agree that the marriage has broken down and proceed with their divorce on that basis.

With the success of the second reading, the Bill has now been committed to a committee of the whole house and remaining stages (third reading and report stage) on Wednesday 17th June 2020. This allows for all MPs to take part in debating the Bill and to vote on its contents. This means that we are remarkably close to a change in the law. If these stages are passed successfully, the law as we know it will be changing following Royal Assent.

It is a credit to Resolution-First for Family Law for how far this Bill has come as they continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the law changes with the times and further that it is fit for purpose. I shall continue to monitor the journey of the Bill and update you in my next article on its progress after 17th June.

If you do need advice in respect of divorce and ancillary matters, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01325 466794.

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