The Government’s Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill proposes changes to the divorce process to remove the concept of fault.
Currently the law requires that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and this must be proved by reliance on one of the following facts:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- 2 years separation, to which the other spouse must consent
- 5 years separation
Once the changes come into effect, all that will be required will be a statement of irretrievable breakdown, removing the requirement to blame the other party in order to pursue an immediate divorce. Couples will also be allowed to make a joint application for divorce. Where one party seeks the divorce, the other will no longer have the right to contest that.
The introduction of a no-fault divorce will help to reduce conflict, allowing couples to focus on important issues like children and financial matters.
The changes should also bring about plain and clear language during the divorce process, for example, changing Decree Nisi to Conditional Order and Decree Absolute to Final Order.
The Government intends to bring in a minimum timeframe of 6 months between the petition and the final decree of divorce. Most divorces take between 6 to 12 months in any case and sometimes longer if there are issues over financial matters. The court cannot approve financial orders by consent or make financial orders until the first decree of divorce (Decree Nisi) has been pronounced in any event.
The bill is currently going through the House of Commons. With Brexit to consider, it is difficult to say how quickly the Government will be able to put the changes before Parliament. It is however encouraging that this change is on the horizon, as it should simplify the process and reduce conflict at an already difficult time.