The divorce process will soon be made easier and less hostile for separating couples, with proposals for a ‘No-Fault Divorce’ to overhaul current legislation.
The change is the outcome of a public consultation, where family law professionals argued the current 50-year-old legislation is outdated, archaic and inflammatory.
Currently, you have to prove that your marriage has permanently broken down, providing a ‘list of reasons’ to the judge to convince them that you should be allowed to separate. Essentially, your divorce petition has to ‘blame’ your partner, and in response, they have to willingly sign it.
The process can only be finalised in less than 2 years if adultery or unreasonable behaviour is given as the reason for the divorce. Also, a separation must last 5 years if one half of the couple objects to the divorce. This can lead to exacerbated conflict and increased legal costs for those involved.
On 9 April 2019, the Justice Secretary announced the new divorce laws, which will:
- Retain ‘irretrievable breakdown’ as the sole ground for divorce;
- Replace the requirement to provide a ‘reason’ for the breakdown with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown;
- Introduce the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process;
- Remove the ability to contest a divorce;
- Introduce a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from petition stage to final divorce.
This allows for a more pragmatic, honest and simple process. The emotional and negative impact a prolonged and disputed divorce has on couples and any children involved will be substantially reduced. Couples will be able to focus on the important issues such as children, property and finances.
The new legislation is expected to be introduced as part of a private member’s bill in 2020.