On 7 January 2020, the Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill was finally introduced to the House of Lords after lengthy delays.
Under current legislation, couples whose marriages have broken down, find themselves in a situation where they either have to wait for at least two years from the point of separation to file a petition for divorce (five years without consent), or they are forced to file a petition citing the other spouse's unreasonable behaviour or adultery.
Rarely do separated couples wish to remain married for two years, and as a result, the majority of divorcing couples file for divorce by alleging the other spouse's unreasonable behaviour. Once, or rather if the Bill does receive royal assent and is passed into law, this will dramatically change the way in which a spouse can file for divorce.
What will the changes mean for me?
The Bill will replace the requirement on one spouse or another to apportion blame and they can instead simply rely on a statement of irretrievable breakdown. The possibility of contesting the decision to divorce will also be removed. The court will be able to a conditional order after twenty weeks have passed from the start of proceedings.
These changes, which have long been campaigned for by family lawyers across England and Wales, will bring an end to the 'blame game' and thus reduce the level of animosity between separating couples which will pave the way to a more conciliatory approach as they each try to establish what the future holds.
While some critics may say that the proposed new law will make it too easy for couples to divorce, this should be balanced with the benefits which will inevitably follow once the Bill is passed into legislation. Not only will the changes reduce tensions when the couples may have substantial decisions to make regarding the division of matrimonial assets, but it will also allow those who have children to focus on how they are going to effectively co-parent and safeguard their children from any risk of harm as a result of parental conflict.
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