After years of discussion and delays, new legislation that allows ‘no-fault divorce’ has finally come into force this month. The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has now become law, allowing couples in England and Wales to get divorced or dissolve their civil partnership without attributing blame to one party for the first time.
The new laws have been marked as a fundamental change to the Divorce laws in England and Wales.
Up until this point, separating couples needed to provide proof of a marriage irretrievably breaking down on the grounds of adultery, desertion, or otherwise unreasonable behaviour to legally bring their marriage to an end.
The only alternative would have been to prove separation for at least two years, or for five years if one party does not want to get divorced.
The move is being seen as a positive step to modernising the divorce process and has been overwhelmingly welcomed by family lawyers. In this day and age, forcing couples to go through a legal process in which one spouse has to “blame” the other in some way for the breakdown of the marriage seems counterintuitive to an amicable separation.
Similarly, having to wait a period of 2 or 5 years after separation, often leads to frustration and increased animosity between the parties.
Instead, couples can approach divorce from the outset with dignity through a constructive, collaborative approach. In doing so, this may, in turn, provide a smoother divorce journey overall.
Whilst some have expressed concerns that the new laws are effectively promoting divorce as a quick and easy solution where marriage is going wrong, it’s important to note that a new time frame has been introduced of 20 weeks between the divorce starting and an application for a conditional order so to give couples time to reflect and/or to give time to agree important arrangements for children, finance or property. It remains a formal legal process and is by no means an ‘easier’ decision to come to. There are still many potential hurdles to overcome and mistakes to make, that obtaining legal advice can help to avoid.
Whilst there will never be a “good” time to start the divorce process, the new legislation allows for less draconian rules and allows those involved to approach it in a less confrontational way.
If you are considering divorce, early advice can go a long way to informing you as to your position and providing a good basis from which to move forward.