After more than 30 years campaigning for “no fault divorces”, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill finally received Royal Assent on 30 June meaning that separating couples no longer need to apportion blame for the breakdown of marriage.
Under the current law, a marriage has to be irretrievably broken down and this must be supported by 1 of 5 facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, 2 years separation with consent, desertion and 5 years separation. Unless the couples “wait out” a prolonged separation, they have to assign blame for the divorce regardless of whether they have mutually decided to separate. This can make divorces highly contentious and unnecessarily acrimonious.
The most common ground is unreasonable behaviour whereby a spouse has to provide examples of the other party’s behaviour and how it was so unreasonable that the divorcing spouse can no longer continue with the marriage. In addition, the divorcing spouse must state the affects the behaviour has on him/her.
As members of Resolution, an organisation that promotes a conciliatory approach to separation, we have fought hard to remove the conflict from divorces and welcome the much-needed change in the law. By removing the “blame game,” couples can focus their attentions on the substantive issues such as effectively dealing with the matrimonial finances or discussing child arrangements.
There will be a time frame of 6 months from the initial divorce application to the grant of the divorce. The reason for this is to allow couples an opportunity to reflect on whether they wish to proceed with the divorce. Once the implementation period is over, the new law will come into effect next year.
Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP said:
“The institution of marriage will always be upheld, but when divorce cannot be avoided the law should not exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing. These new laws will stop separating couples having to make needless allegations against one another, and instead help them focus on resolving their issues amicably. By sparing them the need to play the “blame game”, we are removing the antagonism that this creates so families can better move with their lives.”
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