Ministers revive no-fault divorce bill to end blame game
The government is to revive its no-fault divorce bill that was shelved in November because of the proroguing of the last parliament and the General Election.
Now that the Conservative government has been returned, a new bill is to be introduced in the coming year.
There was no mention of it in the Queen’s Speech, but it was included in the government notes accompanying the speech.
Under the current system, there are five reasons for being granted a divorce by the courts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation if both agree to the divorce, or five years separation, even if the husband or wife disagrees.
This has led to many couples using claims of unreasonable behaviour as a way of avoiding the requirement to wait two years.
Ministers are acting to change the law after responses also revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce.
The government hasn’t put forward any details about the new bill, but some of the proposals it put forward last year included.
- retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce.
- replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ around behaviour or separation with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
- retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
- creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process.
- removing the ability to contest a divorce.
- introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from petition stage to final divorce (20 weeks from petition stage to decree nisi; 6 weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute).
- The divorce will not be automatic at a fixed date at the end of the minimum timeframe but will require the applicant to continue to affirm their decision to seek a divorce. This keeps the important safeguards of the existing process.
- Parallel changes will be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership which broadly mirrors the legal process for obtaining a divorce.
Last year’s proposed legislation did not cover other areas of matrimonial law such as financial provision. It’s not yet known whether that will still be the case with the new redrafted bill.
We shall keep clients informed of developments.