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No-fault divorce - Autumn 2021!

No-fault divorce - Autumn 2021!

In early 2018, we wrote a blog entitled “No fault divorce – the end of the blame game?”. Now over two years later, we can update you on what has happened to the proposed new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill.

Removing blame

At the moment, the divorce system in England and Wales requires one person to initiate the process of filing for divorce (the Petitioner). In the absence of a prior separation of at least 2 years the Petitioner is required to make an accusation about the other’s conduct and to lay the blame for the marriage breakdown firmly at their door. The current fault-based system requires the Petitioner to prove that the other party has either committed adultery, behaved unreasonably, or deserted the marriage. However sensitively this is handled by the parties and their lawyers this often results in a more acrimonious split which is damaging to the parties themselves and to the children of the marriage.

The new bill promises the biggest shake up of divorce laws for over half a century. Its very design means that it will fit with modern society and attitudes towards marriage so that couples will only have to state that their marriage has broken down irretrievably rather than going into often painful and traumatic details of past misdemeanours and apportioning blame for the marriage breakdown.

Less painful

After two years of planning and plenty of rewriting, the new bill on the 17th June completed all its stages in the House of Commons and will be returned to the House of Lords to consider an amendment before it will go on to receive the royal assent.

However, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said that the bill will not come into force straight away after its royal assent because ‘time needs to be allowed for careful implementation’. A no-fault divorce is unlikely to be a reality until late 2021 or even early 2022 because the details of the processes, court forms and the online divorce portal will need to be reviewed to accommodate the new legislation.

During the opening debate in the Commons, Buckland stated that the bill aims to make separation "less traumatic" and “where divorce is inevitable, it will make the legal process less painful." Opponents of the bill believe that it will open the gateway to more divorces, whilst its supporters welcome the changes believing the current divorce law promotes adversarial behaviour and is designed to dissuade couples from divorcing.

No fault

At Alsters Kelley we welcome the news that at long last the divorce laws are to be updated. Erica Kemp, Director and Head of Family Law said. “We definitely approve of the ‘no fault’ divorce. Its implementation should help couples to avoid fighting over who is to blame for the breakdown of the relationship. This often only antagonises an already difficult situation, especially when there are children involved. The new laws will hopefully make the process quicker and less traumatic and encourage the parties to concentrate on ensuring they focus on the well-being of their children and resolving financial matters so that the family can move on with their lives.”

Erica added. “This bill is long overdue, and we hope that its implementation will take place as soon as possible.”

Free initial meeting for support and advice

Whist we support the consensus in relation to no fault divorce, the law has not changed yet. If you would like to take advantage of an initial free meeting to discuss your options then please contact Erica Kemp, Director and Head of Family Law at Alsters Kelley on 01926 356048 or email erica.kemp@alsterskelley.com


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