Yesterday, I was ecstatic to learn that the new No Fault Divorce Bill has finished its journey through Parliament and even though the new legislation will not be accessible until autumn 2021, this marks a significant change in the law.
“Presently … any person seeking a divorce must satisfy the Court that their marriage has broken down irretrievably”
Presently, the law requires that any person seeking a divorce must satisfy the Court that their marriage has broken down “irretrievably”. However, in order to prove this, they must rely on one of five “facts” as set out in S1 (2) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 which are as follows:
- That the Respondent has committed adultery and the Petitioner finds it intolerable to live with them;
- That the Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner cannot be reasonably be expected to live with them;
- That the Respondent has deserted the Petitioner for a continuous period of at least two years;
- That the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least two years and the Respondent consents to the divorce being granted; and
- That the parties have lived apart for a continuous period of at least five years.
“This can cause significant acrimony between couples and can often make it much more difficult for couples to reach an agreement amicably”
The current legislation means that in situations where couples decide to separate by mutual consent and neither has committed adultery or behaved in a way that the other cannot be reasonably expected to live with them, they are unable to petition for a divorce during the first two years of their separation. This means that if an individual wishes to divorce earlier than two years they are more likely to rely on an “unreasonable behaviour” fact even if this is not the reason for the marital breakdown. Unsurprisingly, this can cause significant acrimony between couples and can often make it much more difficult for couples to reach an agreement amicably. It also can have a devastating impact on any children of the family.
It is therefore not surprising that family practitioners have been campaigning for a change in the law for the past 30 years and the introduction of the new legislation brings divorce law into the 21st century. I have read with admiration the lengths family practitioners have gone to over the years to try and implement change and update the law relating to divorce which is now over 50 years old.
“New legislation will allow for a period of six months reflection”
The new legislation will mean that individuals can give notice that the marriage has broken down irretrievably but there is no requirement to rely on one of the ‘fault’ based grounds, as set out above. The new legislation will allow for a period of six months reflection. If, after six months, both partners are of the view that they are making the right decision, the divorce will be finalised.
Hopefully, the new legislation will increase couple’s chances of a successful resolution which does not involve Court proceedings and I am looking forward to the new legislation being implemented and advising Client’s accordingly.
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