The UK Government is currently moving forward with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill. The bill has been described as the ‘no-fault divorce law’ and is set to be the biggest change to England’s divorce legislation in 50 years. Should the law succeed, it should make the process easier and less stressful for couples to divorce.
If a divorce is filed on fault-based grounds, in order for the proceedings to commence immediately, the spouse must allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Fault-based divorces account for over 60,000 divorces each year, yet the process can add unnecessary stress on families. The process of this type of divorce usually involves several allegations, accusations and ‘mudslinging’, all of which can especially be troubling for the couple’s children.
No-fault divorces are currently operational in the England but it can be a long and painful process for all concerned with several delays. The current process means that couples must be separated or present evidence that they have been living separate lives for two years at minimum. It is also possible for one spouse to refuse a divorce if there has not been any unreasonable behaviour. The new legislation aims to streamline the process so that a spouse is not locked in a relationship they no longer wish to be in.
The new law will continue to follow “irretrievable breakdown” as the sole ground for divorce. However, couples will not be required to provide evidence of unreasonable behaviour or a long period of separation. Instead, they will be required to make a statement that the marriage has broken down and no longer will a spouse be able to contest the divorce.
Other countries that adopt similar laws have seen a spike in divorce rates only in the short term. Should this law be passed into UK legislation, there will be a six-month cooling off period from the initial petition for divorce. This should give the couples time to reflect but may also provide more difficulty in certain matters such as finances and ustody of children. Further details on how the cooling off period will work exactly are still to be detailed.
Following this move by the Government, Kevin Ross, director at Brown Turner Ross, feels it is a welcoming step to better reflect current society. The simplified process for no-fault divorces will help reduce the stress and tension between all those involved and help reduce the high level of emotions.