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Is Divorce reform on the way?

It has recently been reported that the Government has put back on the Agenda, legislation regarding the long awaited reform of divorce law.  

The Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill was put forward in June.  It had previously come to a standstill.  The Bill introduces provisions for no-fault divorce.

The Bill has now passed through two readings in the House of Commons and is presently before the House of Lords.  

Under current legislation a spouse has to have evidence of at least 1 of 5 facts in order to establish that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.  Those facts are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion for two years, two years separation with consent from the other party, or five years separation.  

The intention behind the Bill is that the requirement for there to be evidence based upon conduct, or separation, will be replaced with a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.   Whilst in the past contested divorces have been relatively rare, nevertheless it has been the case that a Respondent has been able to oppose the granting of a decree. The possibility of doing so under the Bill will be removed.  The Court additionally will make a conditional order after 20 weeks has passed from the start of the proceedings.  Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, was reported as having said “the institution of marriage will always be vitally important, but we must never allow a situation where our laws exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing. By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives”.  

For many years family lawyers have campaigned for no-default divorce to be introduced and they are now welcoming the latest developments.  In particular Resolution which is an organisation of specialist family lawyers has expressed its support for the changes.    

Amendments will also be made to the law applying to the dissolution of civil partnerships.  The proposed changes will not cover other areas of family law, such as financial provision, which will continue as it does now. 

We will now have to wait and see when the new law will be introduced.  

Should you require advice about any family law matter then do not hesitate to contact Judith Fitzpatrick.   She can be emailed on or contacted by telephone on 01274 723858.

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