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Good news: ‘No fault’ divorce bill back on the parliamentary agenda

The widely supported 'no fault' divorce bill, dropped when parliament was prorogued last month, has made a welcome return after it was included in the latest Queen's Speech.

Family law experts feared the long awaited Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which was automatically jettisoned when parliament was suspended, would be killed off in the process.

But a new bill, mirroring the no-fault provision of its earlier form, is now back on the books much to the relief of family lawyers nationwide, including those at Wards Solicitors.

However, MPs must start from scratch to pass the legislation.

Current law

At the moment, couples in England and Wales who want to bring their marriage to an end must demonstrate that their relationship has irretrievably broken down.

They must do this by establishing one of the five following facts: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; two years separation if both parties agree to the divorce and five years separation with no consent required.

For many people, this means that the spouse asking for a divorce must blame the other for the breakdown of the marriage. Many experts believe this simply leads to hostility, acrimony and conflict with those children caught in the emotional crossfire often badly affected.

Back on track

The new Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, as its predecessor did, will:

  • Replace the need to provide evidence of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour with a simple statement to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down;
  • Retain a provision to abolish contested divorces - this follows the controversial case of Tini Owens told by a Supreme Court judge to stay in what she described as a 'loveless and desperately unhappy marriage' because her husband wouldn't agree to a divorce;
  • Introduce a new stipulation that there should be a minimum of 20 weeks between the start of divorce proceedings and the application for the conditional order. The present six-week period between conditional and final order - the old decree nisi and decree absolute - will remain;
  • Keep the option for married couples to make a joint application for divorce.

Please contact Wards Solicitors' Family Law and Divorce team for more help and information.