“No-fault” divorce bill ready for Royal Rubber Stamp
MPs yesterday debated the final stages of the no-fault divorce, dissolution and separation bill which has now passed its third and final reading in Parliament. The bill completed the House of Lords stages of examination on 24 March 2020 and the second reading of the bill was approved in the House of Commons on 8 June 2020. All that remains now is for the Royal Assent to be obtained, which will be later this year. However, the bill may not be implemented until Autumn 2021. This effectively means that couples may not be able to access the new-style Petitions until 2022, so there will be a wait to access this procedure. However, this is a giant leap forward for divorce reform in England and Wales and is the most radical change to family law in over half a century.
To recap, the bill seeks to:
- Dispense with need to blame your spouse or live separately for between 2-5 years in order to prove the marriage has irretrievably broken down
- Allow a spouse to assert that the marriage has irretrievably broken down without the possibility of challenge from the other spouse
- Introduce joint applications for couples
- Introduce a 6-month timeframe to the divorce process
- Update the terminology
The most hotly contested section of the bill yesterday was the 6-month time period, which some thought was too short. A vote was forced as to whether this time period should be extended to 1 year but did not gain any favour and was voted down by 400 to 31. This means that the only ground for divorce will remain that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, but this will not need to be proved by citing the fact of adultery, unreasonable behaviour or 2-5 years separation. The parties will now be able to apply jointly for divorce on a no-fault basis and will be eligible to apply for Decree Absolute once they have completed a 6-month waiting period. This comes as a result of a 30-year campaign run by Resolution and is being widely welcomed by the family law profession to reduce conflict for families.
This blog will be updated to follow the passage of the bill. However, please contact Fiona Lyon at email@example.com if you would like to discuss your options in relation to divorce, financed or children matters.
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