What is changing?
The long-anticipated Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill 2020 concluded its passage through the House of Commons on 17 June 2020 and is set to revolutionise divorce law.
Once enacted, the law will remove the need for divorcing couples to allocate blame to one another to achieve a divorce as currently required if the parties have not been separated for at least 2 years. Once the new law comes into effect, section 1 of the new Act will see a new statement that the marriage has broken down irretrievably as conclusive evidence that the parties are entitled to a divorce.
What does this change mean?
Practically, the change will mean that there will be no need to cite reasons such as poor behaviour by one party, or adultery, in order to start a divorce. The law will apply in the same way to civil partnerships. The changes will reduce the animosity between couples whose marriages or civil partnerships have broken down and lead to a more forward-thinking approach to dealing with these important matters. The new emphasis on constructively resolving matters is welcomed and is exemplified by the new law also providing the opportunity for couples to ask the Court for a divorce by making a joint application.
The change will eradicate the inconsistencies between the law pertaining to the divorce itself and the law relating to how the finances are split upon divorce. The Courts have for many years not been interested in the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage when considering how to divide the marital assets between the parties. For instance, the law is not concerned with whether one party committed adultery when it comes to dividing the finances. However, the law is currently interested in this when considering if the parties are entitled to a divorce.
An overlooked benefit relates to the welfare of any children of the family. The relationships charity Relate recognise that parental conflict is damaging to children’s outcomes in life, yet the current system leads divorcing parents to apportion blame. Relate explain that the changes “will encourage a positive start to the new relationship divorcing couples must form as co-parents.”
The law as it stands is out of touch with modern society. It uses the terms “Decree Nisi” and “Decree Absolute”. The new law will modernise the language to make the process more understandable.
When does the new law take effect?
The changes to the law are welcomed by Rosewood Solicitors as it will assist clients who are seeking a divorce. However, the law will not come into effect until it is debated again in the House of Lords. The current timetable will involve implementation in Autumn 2021. This is disappointing as it further delays changes to the old 1973 law which have long been subject to criticism by divorcing couples and the legal profession.
Improvements are still required
The law itself may be evolving but the evolution of the divorce process appears to be stuttering. A trial to move the process online has been partially abandoned. At Rosewood Solicitors, we would like to see the Court make significant process to introduce an online system that all solicitors acting for divorcing couples can use. This will lessen the administrative burden on the Court which currently causes unacceptable delays for divorcing couples.
At Rosewood Solicitors, we believe in a non-confrontational approach to divorce and children matters. If you would like advice in relation to your relationship or children matters, please contact our Family Team on 01483 901414 to book your free consultation.