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On 17th June 2020 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill finally got over the line, after several false starts and a fairly tortuous journey through parliament.
This is a step largely welcomed by the legal profession and, perhaps more importantly, the wider public. It certainly amounts to a significant change to the current legal position surrounding Divorce.
Whilst there will still remain only one ground for Divorce – the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage – this change is in relation to the factual basis on which that breakdown can be proved to the satisfaction of the Court – after all, this is still a legal process requiring judicial sanction. Until this legislation comes into force, in order to divorce someone, you must rely on one of 5 facts – desertion, adultery, 5 years separation, 2 years separation (plus consent of both parties) or unreasonable behaviour. This has meant that, in the majority of cases where couples have not been separated for 2 years or more, they have had to rely on proving that it has been the unreasonable behaviour of their spouse which has led to the breakdown in the marriage.
The problem is that that is often not the case at all. Sometimes people grow apart, fall out of love, just don’t want to be married anymore. This change will allow couples to divorce without the need to effectively apportion blame….It will remove the often pointless, and potentially damaging, charade of drafting up Divorce Petitions on the basis of one parties’ “unreasonable behaviour” – when that is simply not the reason for the divorce. In particular, it is hoped that the removal of the need to play the blame game will lessen hostility and conflict in what is already a difficult situation and, for families with children, that is particularly important.
Of course, others will see it as another nail in the coffin for the family unit and the sanctity of marriage. Still, there will be plenty of time to debate whether this is a sensible and much-needed updating of a law out of step with the reality of modern relationships or a further move towards the erosion of family values and the institute of marriage…the legislation is unlikely to come into force until autumn 2021.
In the meantime we will continue to guide people through the process of Divorce seeking to remove the stress and anxiety as much as we can, this change will undoubtedly help us to do that in the future. Visit our divorce and family law page for further information, or get in touch via our online form for a free consultation.
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