The UK Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced that he will bring forward legislation to introduce no-fault divorce.
The new system should end the blame game between couples as the proposals for changes to family law include the following in regards to divorce proceedings:
- irretrievable breakdown of a relationship will remain the sole ground for divorce;
- providing evidence in support of one of the five facts contributing to the breakdown (such as adultery, separation or unreasonable behaviour) will no longer be required, instead a statement of irretrievable breakdown will need to be provided;
- retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute, however the terminology is to change and more self-explanatory terms are to be used, such as conditional order and final order;
- revising the current process so that one, or potentially both parties jointly, can start the divorce proceedings;
- the ability to contest a divorce will be removed, since this function does not really prevent the divorce but instead prolongs the proceedings and is known to be misused by abusers choosing to contest a divorce purely to continue their coercive and controlling behaviour; and,
- introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from filing the petition to finalising the divorce.
The foregoing public consultation revealed that the current system quite often works against any prospect of reconciliation. The blaming of parties to the divorce leads to undermining the relationship between parents and this can be damaging to children after divorce.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said:
“Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances. While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples. So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”
The MoJ’s perception is that the reforms will retain what works well and remove obstacles to amicable ways of resolving marital disputes and breakdown. New legislation will therefore be introduced to Parliament to update our 50-year-old divorce law which has been shown to exacerbate conflict. The new law will be introduced as soon as the Parliamentary time allows.
The original press release of Justice Secretary David Gauke on 9 April 2019 can be found here.
Getting divorced online
Speaking at the annual Resolution Conference on Friday 5 April 2019, Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, expanded on further simplification of divorce proceedings, revealing work is currently underway to add decree nisi and decree absolute to the pilot online scheme. The full speech can be found here.
The plan is that the vast majority of divorce proceedings should be dealt with online by the end of 2019. The paper-based petitions will be scanned and converted online and then administered remotely.
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