Want a no fault divorce? You’ll have to wait until Autumn 2021

June 20th 2020

Those waiting for no fault divorces to come into law have a wait on their hands.  Despite the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill having almost concluded its journey through Parliament, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland MP has stated that Parliament are working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in autumn 2021 as “time needs to be allowed for careful implementation”. 

The Bill finished its passage through the House of Commons on 17 June and is now heading back to the House of Lords for additional amendments to be considered.  Once the Bill receives Royal Assent there will need to be new forms, guidance and procedures drawn up and put in place before it will be possible to petition for a no fault divorce.

Once enacted, this Bill will be the biggest shake up of divorce laws in over 50 years.  The aim of the Bill is to reduce conflict in divorce by removing the need for allegations of blame.  Currently, unless a couple has been separated for more than 2 years, the person petitioning for divorce has to make accusations about the other spouse, such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery.

Whilst many couples may accept that they no longer wish to be married, they do not necessarily wish to have to wait for a period of separation of at least 2 years or to have to blame the other spouse by relying on their adultery or providing a list of ‘unreasonable behaviour’. 

The majority of family lawyers work with their clients to try to make the divorce process as amicable as possible. However, unless a couple has been separated for more than 2 years, they then have to play the blame game which can add further emotion at what is already a difficult time.

Under the new law, one spouse or the couple together can make a statement confirming the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  The new law will also introduce a 20 week period between the Decree Nisi stage and the stage at which the divorce can be concluded.  This is to ensure the couple have a meaningful period of reflection and the chance to reconcile.  It is also hoped that, where divorce is the ultimate outcome, the period of reflection will help couples co-operate to make arrangements for the future and their children. 

What could this mean for you?

If you are contemplating whether to wait for a no fault divorce to become law before starting your divorce proceedings, but do not wish to wait until autumn 2021,  we can work closely with you under the current system to make the divorce as amicable, swift and cost-effective as possible. 

We appreciate that each case and each person’s objective is different.  We will take time to talk through your options and advise you on the best course of action, taking into account your individual circumstances. 

Madeleine Harrington is a Family Law Solicitor in Spratt Endicott’s Brackley and Buckingham offices. To discussthis article with her please email mharrington@se-solicitors.co.uk

*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation. The information is accurate at date of publication, 25th of June 2020 .