In particular, following the decision in Owens v Owens in 2018 where Mrs Owens was not able to satisfy the current law that her husband’s behaviour was sufficient to grant a divorce, reform of the law of divorce has been a priority for family lawyers.
The Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill had passed through two readings in the House of Commons before the prorogation of parliament and the recent election. It has now at last been introduced to the House of Lords on 7 January 2020.
The bill provides for either or both spouses to apply for a “divorce order” on a no fault basis. It will no longer be necessary for a spouse to provide evidence of behaviour or adultery or a length of separation. Instead all that will be required is a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken.
It will no longer be possible to defend or contest divorce proceedings. Following confirmation by the applicant or joint applicants that they wish to continue with the application, the court will be able to make a conditional order 20 weeks after the commencement of proceedings.
Justice Secretary Buckland has reiterated the importance of the institution of marriage but has said that the removal of blame from divorce proceedings is intended to strip out “needless antagonism” so that families can better move on with their lives.
There is still some way to go before the bill becomes law so for now it will still be necessary to proceed under the current fault based provisions and it is important to take legal advice to ensure that documentation is properly drafted and to try to minimise the impact of proceedings. At Hine all our Family Solicitors are members of Resolution and are committed to helping the divorce process to proceed as smoothly as possible