On 9th April, the Government announced plans to reform current divorce law with the aim of reducing family conflict.
Currently when applying for a divorce, only one party can make the application (the Petitioner). In the application, the Petitioner will need to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and rely on one of five facts. It has been argued that three of these facts are fault based (adultery, behaviour and desertion). The remaining two facts are two years’; separation with consent and five years separation. This therefore means that if a couple do not want to ‘blame’ their partner then they will need to wait at least two years before commencing the divorce process.
The Government proposes to retain the sole ground for divorce as irretrievable breakdown but will replace the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ around behaviour or separation, with a requirement for a statement of irretrievable breakdown. No information is currently available as to how this statement will appear on the Divorce Petition.
The Government has also proposed creating a joint application for divorce as well as retaining the option for only one party to initiate the process.
The process of obtaining the Decree Nisi and then the Decree Absolute will remain the same. However, the Government has plans to introduce a minimum time frame of six months, from the Divorce Petition to Decree Absolute. This would be split as 20 weeks from the Divorce Petition stage to Decree Nisi and then 6 weeks from Decree Nisi to Decree Absolute. Currently there are no time limits between the Divorce Petition and obtaining the Decree Nisi. The Government felt that introducing these time limits will provide a meaningful period of reflection and the opportunity to re-consider and halt the divorce process.
Whilst the Government has proposed these plans for reform, no date has been given when these changes will be made. Resolution’s current Chair, Margaret Heathcote has stated, ‘we remain concerned that so much Government and Parliamentary time is being spent on Brexit and other issues at the moment, and look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice and others to ensure the law is changed at the earliest possible opportunity.’
This means that for the foreseeable future, until we are told otherwise, practitioners will use the current system, relying on the five facts until the Government implements its proposals into law.
Get in Touch
If you would like further information on divorce or other family matters, please contact our Family Partner, Paul Wild, on our Reading office number 0118 9589711 or email [email protected]. Paul offers a one-hour confidential fixed fee meeting at our Queen’s Road offices for £95 including VAT.