The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Bill received Royal Assent on 25 June 2020 and became an Act of Parliament. This followed many years of campaigning by family lawyers and Resolution (the National Association of family law professionals) for the existing divorce laws to be reformed.
Under the current law anyone wishing to divorce their spouse or dissolve their civil partnership must prove irretrievable breakdown of their marriage or civil partnership. In order to do this the Petitioner (ie. the person applying for the divorce) must establish one of the following facts:-
1. Their partner (the Respondent) has committed adultery.
2. The Respondent has behaved in such a way that the Petitioner can no longer be reasonably expected to continue living with them (“unreasonable behaviour”).
3. Desertion on the part of the Respondent.
4. Two years’ separation (with the Respondent’s consent).
5. Five years’ separation (with no requirement for the Respondent to consent).
The facts for dissolution of a civil partnership are 2 – 5 above (adultery is not applicable).
Three of the above facts rely on the Respondent’s conduct and inevitably involve the Petitioner having to cite blame by their spouse or civil partner. This can be inflammatory and unhelpful in the context of trying to negotiate a financial settlement or resolve children arrangements. Although the separation facts are more neutral, having to wait two or five years can be problematic psychologically and practically for a couple who wish to achieve certainty by formalising the end of their relationship and financial arrangements within a reasonable period of time.
The new law will mean that couples can divorce by one or both of them providing a statement that their marriage has broken down irretrievably. This removes the requirement for one party to blame the other. There will also be no possibility of a Respondent being able to defend or block the divorce. The statement of irretrievable breakdown will be followed by a minimum period of six months before the divorce can be finalised.
The new law is unlikely to come into force before Autumn 2021 and the relevant court rules and procedures have yet to be set out. Weighing up whether it is worth waiting twelve months (or possibly longer) before starting divorce or dissolution proceedings will be a matter for each person or couple depending on the facts of each case.
Our specialist team of family solicitors at Tisshaws is experienced in guiding clients through the divorce process and advising on the financial aspects of divorce as well as children arrangements.
Should you require more information, please contact us on 01444 472700.
3 Hazelgrove Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex,
We do not have public parking at our office but there are pay and display car parks a few minutes walk away on St Joseph's Way and St Wilfred's Way, by the Tesco Express and Orchard Shopping Centre.
If you are using public transport we are a 20 minute walk from Haywards Heath train station and a short walk from a number of bus stops.