Divorce proceedings can often be portrayed as being lengthy, costly and contentious. This certainly is not the case for everyone, but, unfortunately, this can be the reality for some. I, for one, am extremely welcoming of the new legislation, Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.
When will it be implemented?
The Royal Assent was received in June 2020, but this doesn’t quite mean it is law yet. Receiving Royal Assent means that the Bill has passed through the required stages in Parliament and has now passed the formality in which the Queen agrees it can be law. The Government is now working on the implementation and, therefore, it is expected that it will become law in autumn 2021.
How does the divorce process work under the current law?
The current process for divorce is that you must show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down by evidencing this with one of five facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, a two-year separation with consent, or a five-year separation without consent. Not all situations fit into one of these categories and, therefore, if you want to begin your divorce before two years of separation, adultery or unreasonable behaviour are often used. These are both used by asserting blame to one party for the breakdown of the marriage. Placing blame on one party’s behaviour can cause bad feeling from the very beginning which then sets the tone for the rest of the proceedings and can often cause contested, costly and lengthy proceedings.
How will the new law change the way divorce is dealt with in the future?
It is often difficult to look at how a new law will work until it is in practice. However, we do know that the new legislation will remove the five facts that are currently relied upon, so that you will simply need to show, by way of a statement, that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. This means that in situations where the parties are in agreement their marriage has broken down but do not want to have to assert blame, they can begin their divorce process immediately, rather than waiting for two years. Further, parties will be able to make a joint application for divorce to show that they are both in agreement.
The new law has been known within the media as the “no-fault divorce”. The idea is that the new law will encourage and enable parties to focus their attention on the financial settlement and the children, rather than asserting blame on the breakdown of the marriage. If there are children within the marriage, it is extremely important that the relationship as parents is not affected, so that the children are protected from the divorce proceedings and a no-fault divorce will aim to assist with this.
As a Solicitor and member of Resolution, my priority is to settle matters for my clients as effectively as possible. I am sure the new legislation will have its initial teething problems like all new processes, but I welcome any amendment that will look to reduce conflict and confrontation for my clients.
If you have a matrimonial query, please do not hesitate to contact me for advice.