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Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 – bringing divorce law into the 21st century

02/09/2020

No-fault divorce is set to become a reality after the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received Royal Assent on 25 June 2020.

First introduced in June 2019 after a public consultation, the Bill was brought before parliament again following the General Election.

The Law Society has said no-fault divorce will bring divorce law into the 21st century, with changes to take effect in Autumn of 2021 following an implementation period. Family lawyers and members of the general public alike are delighted to see the Bill reach the end of its parliamentary journey.

In this article Family Lawyer, Michelle Bettell, and Trainee Solicitor Jessica Wade, look at the changes to divorce law and explain the implications for separating couples.

A non-confrontational approach

The biggest change to divorce law for some years now means separating couples will be spared having to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage in order to be granted a divorce. Currently, a divorce will only be granted on the basis of one party’s conduct or following a lengthy period of separation.

The new law seeks to align the divorce process with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law, encouraging a non-confrontational approach wherever possible; thereby reducing conflict and limiting the adverse effect of confrontation upon the parties and any children of the family.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 provides that a divorce will continue to be applied for on the existing basis of an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. Specifically, however, the Act will:

  • Replace the current requirement to evidence either a conduct or separation ‘fact’ with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. For the first time ever, couples can opt to make this a joint statement;
  • Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down;
  • Introduce a new minimum period of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the Court that a conditional order of divorce may be made, allowing greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible, and divorce is inevitable; and
  • Crucially, a new and extended minimum timeframe of six months from the initial application stage to the granting of a divorce will also be created.

Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP have said: ‘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.’

The end result, after many years of campaigning, is that family lawyers will better be able to support the 100,000 or so couples who divorce each year to resolve matters as constructively and amicably as possible, whilst also minimising the impact of conflict, blame and fault between divorcing couples on any children of the marriage.

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If you have any questions regarding your own personal or family matters, please contact Michelle Bettell or a member of our family team on 01202 983999 or enquire below. 

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