No fault? No problem!

It is the bill most divorcing couples have been waiting for since it was first announced in April 2019.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill entered parliament on 7 January 2020, completed its House of Lords stages in March and was most recently debated and passed at a second reading by MPs in the House of Commons on Monday 8 June.

The bill would operate to remove the blame element inherent in filing for divorce. Currently when filing for divorce, one of the following five facts must be proven by the petitioning spouse:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion for two continuous years or more
  • Separation for at least two years and their spouse consents to the divorce
  • Separation for at least five years where their spouse does not consent to the divorce

In comparison, under the new legislation the sole ground for a divorce will be irretrievable breakdown of the marriage; no accusations of fault required! Notably, a statement of irretrievable breakdown will be determinative and it will no longer be a requirement for the other party to consent to the divorce.

Many have praised the new legislation for creating a more civil route out of a marriage which is especially desirable where there are children involved. The introduction of a joint divorce application by both spouses is a particularly positive aspect of the new legislation in this respect, as it allows parents to present a divorce as a joint decision, avoiding any potential bitterness by the children towards the petitioning parent.

The non-fault element of the proposed bill will also reduce hostility between the divorcing couple from the outset, hopefully minimising any potential conflict in any negotiations or court proceedings regarding finances and/or children going forward.

These changes mark the first legislative reforms to the divorce process since the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 was passed almost 50 years ago. In this time there has been a significant shift in social attitudes towards divorce and it is a welcome development to see the law being updated to reflect this.

Should you be considering the possibility of divorce or have received a divorce petition from your spouse, Rollits’ dedicated and experienced family law team are on hand to advise, assist and guide you through the process.

Posted on: 11/06/2020

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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