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England and Wales No Fault Divorce-Bill

England and Wales No Fault Divorce-Bill

On the 13th June, 2019, the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, introduced a ground-breaking Bill into the House of Commons. The ‘Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill’.

Over a year later, on the week of 22nd June, 2020, the No Fault Divorce Bill gained Royal Assent.

So, what does this mean for divorcing couples moving forward? The new law will allow a spouse, or a couple, to apply for divorce by making a statement of ‘irretrievable breakdown’. Under the current system, one spouse has to accuse the other, and give examples of, ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery, or otherwise face between 2 – 5 years of separation before a divorce can be granted. No Fault Divorce aims to end the arbitrary ‘blame game’ that currently exists between divorcing couples.

In addition to this, a new minimum time frame of 6 months from the initial application to the granting of a divorce is also in the works. The intention of this is to offer the divorcing couple time to ensure that important arrangements for the future, both financial and children related, are agreed prior to the divorce becoming absolute.

However, these changes will not come into effect until late 2021, by which time careful consideration will have been given to how to implement the same in the Courts, online and on paper.

Despite the many celebrating the Bill’s royal assent, No Fault Divorce is not without its critics. Many continue to argue that No Fault Divorce could hasten the end to a marriage that could be salvageable if given time and that the current two-year separation requirement allows couples time to reflect. In short, some say that the no-fault principle undermine the sanctity of marriage.

Nevertheless, the Bill has sought to accommodate these criticisms by introduction of the new minimum period of 20 weeks which will, in effect, offer couples the time to reflect, turn back and seek reconciliation should they so wish.

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP has also made it clear that the institution of marriage will continue to be upheld, however, when divorce cannot be avoided, No Fault Divorce will help couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible,

So, in summary, the new law will bring the following changes:

  • Replace the current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage (for the first time, couples can opt to make this a joint statement).
  • Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
  • Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made, allowing greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable.

Clifton Ingram LLP are looking forward to welcoming the forward-looking, non-confrontational approach of no fault divorce, thereby reducing conflict and its damaging effect on clients and their families.

This article is written as a general guide and believed correct at the date of publication. If you need further or more specific information relating to your situation, please get in touch with us.

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