Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 | HK News

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

| Published on August 10, 2020

As of the 25th June 2020, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received royal assent meaning one step further in the drastic change in UK divorce law away from a ‘fault based’ system. Despite this, the Act is not expected to come into force in England and Wales until Autumn 2021.

What does the new Act mean for the UK divorce law?

At present, in England and Wales, one spouse to a divorce must place an element of ‘blame’ on the other spouses’ conduct to enable them to be entitled to be divorced. If they do not wish to place blame, the parties have to be separated for at least 2 years (with consent of the other party) or, if the other party does not consent, there must be 5 years continuous separation before an application for divorce may be filed with the court.

This system is currently outdated and does not reflect modern relationships. This is evidenced by the case of Owens v Owens [2018] UKSC 41 where Mrs Owens’ application based on Mr Owens behaviour, which she believed made it unreasonable for her to live with him, was rejected by the court as they deemed her particulars did not meet the threshold in showing that the marriage had irretrievably broken down. As Mr Owens did not consent to the application, the only option available to Mrs Owen was for the parties to be separated for five years before she could apply for a divorce even though the courts recognised that the marriage had broken down irretrievably.

The current law also increases animosity between spouses at an extremely emotional time. The new legislation seeks to encourage an amicable start to the beginning of the divorce process by removing the need to place blame on one party or alternatively, the parties having to be separated for two years or more. The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation law merely requires a statement that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and upon this the court must make a divorce order. A further radical change is that this cannot be contested by the other spouse.

Making a joint application

If parties wish to make a joint application, this will also be possible under the new law. The minimum timeframe from the issuing of the application through to being able to obtain a final divorce order is six months. This will allow parties an opportunity to resolve financial issues prior to the divorce order being granted.

The change in the law is a positive and a welcomed change by family practitioners. Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP commented;

“These new laws will stop separating couples having to make needless allegations against one another, and instead help them focus on resolving their issues amicably” and “by sparing them the need to play the ‘blame game’, we are removing the antagonism that this creates so families can better move on with their lives”.

Despite the new legislation not anticipated to be coming into force until Autumn 2021, there have been further changes in the process of application for a divorce. Parties may now apply online and practitioners have a portal system which allows for applications to be processed in a more efficient manner.

Our solicitors can help

If you would like to speak with one of our family solicitors regarding the current divorce process, please contact our offices and we will be happy to advise you on your case.

For further advice, please contact Leanne Weatherill in our Crewkerne office on 01460 279 100 or Kay Levene in our Bournemouth office on 01202 421 111

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