Since the publication of our previous article, “Whose Fault is Divorce?” notable progress has been made in relation to updating the law governing divorce. This follows substantial criticism of the current law, which requires proof of one of five ‘facts’ in order to demonstrate that the marriage has suffered an irretrievable breakdown. The state of the current law therefore encourages parties to find fault, particularly because the fault-based facts (adultery and unreasonable behaviour) often give rise to quicker divorce proceedings.
Consequently, a new bill called the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was introduced to the House of Lords on 7th January 2020 having passed two readings by the House of Commons. The Bill provides for no-fault divorce, therefore eliminating the need for parties to prove one of the five ‘facts’. Although it must still be demonstrated to the court that there has been an irretrievable breakdown, it is enough for one party to apply for a divorce with a simple statement to this effect.
The Bill also removes the possibility for divorce proceedings to be contested by the other party. This prevents a situation wherein a divorcing spouse may be kept in a marriage for up to 5 years, essentially against their will, if the other party were to defend the divorce successfully.
The removal of these provisions from the current law will mean that the court has the power to make a conditional order 20 weeks after proceedings have started. This is a stark contrast to the current time frame for many divorces.
The effect of this will be to remove any hostility between parties and lessen the effects of divorce on children, while putting in place the necessary safeguards in order to uphold the institution of marriage. The same changes will also take effect on the law regarding the dissolution of civil partnerships.