One Step closer to Non-Fault Divorce
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 5 February 2020. The Bill will allow couples to divorce without having to assign blame. For a couple seeking a divorce under the current law (the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973), they cannot proceed simply on the basis that they decide that their marriage is over and mutually agree to divorce, even though this is a common request for family lawyers. Now, one party must establish one of the 5 “facts” in support.
The current mutual consent divorce requires couples to have been separated for a minimum of two years. Most couples do not wish or cannot afford to wait this long. If they want to get their divorce so that they can plan for the future, they have no option but to allege adultery or ‘unreasonable behaviour’. This means that they become involved in a ‘blame game’ which can often lead to going over painful moments in the marriage which were most likely the cause of its breakdown. At present, it is possible for one of the parties to defend the divorce on one of the “blame” grounds, and keep the other spouse in the marriage against their wishes for 5 years from separation as in the recent case of Owens.
The current divorce law does not encourage the parties to work together. Instead it introduces and/or escalates conflict from the outset of the divorce process, making it harder for people to make agreements about other issues such as children and/or finances.
When using a fault fact, this often leads to extensive correspondence and costs passing between solicitors which creates animosity and hinders any discussions regarding the children. It also makes parties less willing to negotiate in financial matters.
It has become more common for parties to represent themselves in proceedings rather than instructing a solicitor, given the new online divorce process. When completing a Petition based on behaviour, it is often the case that it is completed inaccurately. Further, the Respondent will not know that they do not have to defend the behaviour or how to protect their position within the Acknowledgement of Service. This can lead to confusion and more court time taken in returning the papers to the parties acting in person.
The new Bill should stop any confusion and animosity and allow parties to divorce and discuss matters on a more amicable basis which will also have a more position impact on any children who are also subject to the separation.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of separating, please contact our family law specialists on 01892 824 577 or on firstname.lastname@example.org