No-fault divorce – Only a matter of time?
In other news…!
On 8th June 2020, a significant development was made with respect to divorce reform in England and Wales. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons with MPs voting 231 to 16 in favour of the Bill passing.
So what does this actually mean? At present, there is one ground for divorce, namely that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This is proved by one of 5 facts:
- unreasonable behaviour
- two years’ separation with consent or
- five years separation.
In the absence of adultery and desertion, spouses will have to rely on their husband’s or wife’s ‘unreasonable behaviour’ when issuing a divorce petition where they wish for the divorce to progress immediately. By its very nature, this will require the petitioner to allege fault on the part of their spouse as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. The current law, as a result, gives rise to all manner of emotional hurdles from the outset when there is already tension and friction in the relationship. Further, it is possible for a respondent spouse to ‘defend’ the divorce proceedings, adding yet again to the emotional strain (and indeed the financial strain) of divorce.
The Bill aims to alleviate some of these pressures and end ‘the blame game’. Whilst irretrievable breakdown will remain as the sole ground for divorce, a spouse would no longer have to provide evidence of the breakdown, namely one of the 5 facts above, and consequently, they would not have to allege fault on the part of their spouse. Divorce proceedings could also be commenced immediately without the need for a period of separation (although the requirement for the parties to have been married for at least one year remains) and there would be fewer grounds for the respondent spouse to contest the divorce. One hugely significant proposal under the Bill is that spouses could jointly apply for a divorce (as well as individually) which is a welcome change where previously no such option was available. This in itself could pave the way for healthier, more constructive and more positive co-parenting relationships going forwards.
The Bill will now progress to the Committee Stage before the House of Commons on Wednesday 17 June 2020
For advice on your divorce or separation, please contact any of our top London divorce lawyers on E: firstname.lastname@example.org or T: 020 7420 5000.