The Government has announced new legislation to overhaul divorce and reduce family conflict.
Divorcing couples will no longer need to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage following an announcement by the Justice Secretary David Gauke.
The proposed legislation will update the 50-year-old divorce law which has been shown to exacerbate conflict. The current laws are excessively harsh and demand that the Petitioner proves fault as a ground for divorce: unreasonable behaviour; adultery; desertion or to prove a period of separation to show that a marriage has broken down irretrievably.
At present, a small minority of cases are defended, which is a practice misused by abusers choosing to contest a divorce to continue their coercive and controlling behaviour. The new legislation will bring an end to defended divorces.
The new proposals for changes in the law will include: –
- Retaining the irretrievable breakdown as the sole ground for divorce.
- Replace the requirement to provide evidence of fault with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
- Retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute.
- Creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option of one party being able to initiate the process.
- Removing the ability to defend a divorce.
- Introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from the petition stage to the final dissolution [20 weeks from the petition stage to decree nisi; 6 weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute].
The 20 week timeframe is designed to allow the parties to have a meaningful period of reflection and the opportunity to change their minds. The 20 week period will also enable couples to reach agreement on practical arrangements in the future. The new legislation will enable divorcing couples to separate with dignity and less conflict.
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