- Landmark Bill will mitigate the impact of unnecessary conflict on couples and their children
- Couples will face a new minimum wait of six months before divorces are pronounced
- The changes will come into effect next year after the implementation period
New laws to prevent divorcing couples from having to assign responsibility for their marriage breakdown went one step further this week, as a bill to reduce family conflict received the sanction royal.
Currently, one spouse must bring charges of the other’s conduct, such as “unreasonable behavior” or adultery, or face years of separation before a divorce can be granted, whether the couple has or. not made a mutual decision to separate.
The new laws will instead allow a spouse, or a couple, to file for divorce by making a declaration of irreparable separation. This aims to end the unnecessary “blame game” between couples and parents.
Importantly, a new extended minimum period of six months from the initial application phase until the granting of divorce will also be created. This will give couples time to reflect and look back, or, when reconciliation is not possible, to make important arrangements for the future, such as how best to care for their children.
The changes will not come into effect until later next year to allow for careful implementation of necessary changes to court, online and paper processes.
Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP said:
The institution of marriage will always be respected, but when divorce cannot be avoided, the law should not exacerbate conflict and interfere with a child’s education.
These new laws will stop separating couples from making unnecessary claims against each other, and instead help them focus on resolving their issues amicably.
By sparing them the need to play the “blame game”, we remove the antagonism this creates so that families can better move forward in their lives.
The bill was first introduced in June 2019 after a public consultation and was again presented to parliament after the general election. It took its final step on June 17, with the support of all parties as well as the support of family law practitioners.
Juliet Harvey, National President of Resolution, said:
After more than 30 years of campaigning by our members and others working to reduce conflict between separating couples, we are delighted that this landmark law is now becoming a reality.
Lawmakers have played a valuable role in helping to make the divorce process smoother and less confrontational, and our members are no longer hampered by outdated law that encouraged couples to play the “blame game”.
As a result, practitioners will be better able to support separating families to achieve constructive, friendly arrangements that benefit everyone involved, especially children.
More specifically, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act:
- Replace the current requirement to prove a conduct or “fact” of separation with the provision of a declaration of irretrievable marriage breakdown (for the first time, couples can choose to make a joint declaration).
- Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, because a statement will be conclusive proof that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
- Introduces a new minimum period of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and confirmation to the court that a conditional divorce order can be made, thus giving couples a greater opportunity to agree on practical arrangements for the future when the reconciliation is not possible and divorce is inevitable.
The new laws seek to align the divorce law process with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law – encouraging a forward-looking and non-confrontational approach to the extent possible, thereby reducing conflict and its detrimental effects on families. children in particular.