As many people will now be aware, the current Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has been reintroduced to Parliament, following its automatic failure as a result of the dissolution of Parliament on 6th November 2019. The idea of the Bill is to introduce a ‘no fault divorce’ with the aim to reduce or eliminate family conflict.

The reintroduced Bill is due to undergo its second reading in the House of Lords, where a general debate on the Bill takes place, on 5th February 2020, with many people eagerly awaiting the outcome.

The current divorce process

At present, there is only one ground to divorce and that is that the marriage has ‘irretrievably broken down.’ The person applying for the divorce (‘the Petitioner’) then has to rely on one of five ‘facts’ in support. These facts are:

  1. Their spouse has committed Adultery;
  2. Their spouse’s unreasonable behaviour i.e. the spouse has behaved in such a way that the party can no longer be expected to live with them;
  3. Their spouse has deserted them for a period of at least 2 years;
  4. The parties have lived apart for a continuous period of 2 years and both parties consent to the divorce; and
  5. The parties have lived apart for a continuous period of 5 years, whether or not the spouse consents.

The changes proposed by the Bill

Although not specifically mentioned in the bill, the current restriction on a party being unable to apply for a divorce before the end of their first year of marriage, is to remain.

The main change to the current divorce process, as proposed by the Bill, would be the removal of the requirement for the Petitioner to rely on one of the five ‘facts’ listed above. This paves the way for one or both parties to apply for a divorce (a ‘Divorce Order’) without the need to place the blame on the other party.

Furthermore, the ability for one party to contest to the divorce will also be removed, as the statement in the initial application is to be taken as evidence that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This would therefore eliminate  situations whereby there has been some form of domestic abuse within the relationship and the other party contests the divorce as a way of exerting further control.

The ‘new’ process

Either one party, or both parties together, can apply to the Court for a ‘Divorce Order’. Within the application there will be a statement to confirm that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

A new minimum period of 20 weeks from the date when the application is issued, to the first stage of the divorce, is also proposed. This is known as the ‘period of reflection’ and prior to any ‘Conditional Order’ (equivalent to the current Decree Nisi) being issued, one (or both) parties will be required to reconfirm that they wish for the divorce to continue (or not).

The current timescale of a minimum of 6 weeks between the ‘Conditional Order’ and the ‘Final Order’ (equivalent to the Decree Absolute) is to remain in place.

It remains to be seen how the Bill progresses through Parliament and whether the notion of a ‘no fault’ divorce moves one step closer to receiving Royal Assent.

If you require any more information, contact Shelley directly on 01904 917986.

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