Where we are currently
The law with reference to divorce has not been properly reformed for many years. The process that couples looking to divorce currently go through, is rooted in legislation put in place in 1973. If you imagine the amount of social change there has been since that time, in parallel with lifestyle and advances in individual rights in society, it’s not difficult to understand how the existing legislation is regarded as being somewhat outdated.
Everyone understands that relationships are complicated and relationship breakdown can occur due to a myriad of reasons, but there is currently only one ground for divorce: the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
The breakdown needs to be justified by one of five options:
- the other spouse’s adultery.
- the other spouse’s unreasonable behaviour.
- two years’ separation (with the other spouse’s consent).
- five years’ separation.
- or desertion.
Relationships can often just come to an end where individuals have grown apart, so having to choose one of those options (particularly one of the first two) can leave a bad taste where, in fact, the end of the relationship is actually amicable.
The existing process can aggravate the situation between separating couples. Adultery or unreasonable behaviour need to be presented in the divorce petition as actual examples. Many divorcing couples may not have individual incidents which caused them to want to divorce and you can end up with a situation where people become unnecessarily aggravated with the process or actually have to make up or exaggerate minor issues.
The current legislation is seen by many as actually stoking up potential conflicts and forcing individuals to apportion blame where there may not be any individual blame involved at all.
What are the forthcoming Divorce Reforms?
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received Royal Assent last year but it’s implementation has been delayed due to factors connected with the pandemic. The changes are currently due to be implemented on 6 April 2022. The main reforms of the Act are aimed at removing the current concept of fault in divorces and reforming the process itself.
The headline changes involve:
- removing the existing five ‘options’ that are seen as inflexible and provocative, with a new requirement to provide a straightforward statement stating that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
- The New Act also looks to remove the possibility of one party contesting the divorce, though there are still limited circumstances where that can occur.
Overall, the changes are welcomed by family law practitioners. If potential conflicts can be avoided then that can only be a good thing. We do remind any and all clients who are facing a divorce, to consider the financial aspects that are vital to get right during the divorce itself. Making sure you can access what you are due financially and with good regard to assets as you move onto your new life, is essential for your future security.
Contact rhw’s family law team for excellent legal advice and guidance.