No Fault Divorce Will be Introduced From Autumn 2021

I reported last week that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill had been debated in the House of Commons and been approved by an overwhelming majority of the MPs present. The Bill and the principle of ‘no fault’ divorce is largely uncontroversial. The new law will introduce a simplified procedure, although largely the same as what happens now, without having to show the ‘grounds’ of adultery, behaviour or periods of separation of two years or more to justify the divorce.

Yesterday (Thursday 18th June 2020) an amendment to the Bill was passed by the House of Lords before it receives Royal Assent and becomes law. However, married couples will have to wait until autumn 2021 before the law is implemented and the new grounds and procedure for divorce can be used. This means that, until then, someone wishing to divorce will have to rely on the current law and procedure.

Caution has to be exercised when getting divorced as there are many things which will have to be considered such as arrangements for children and finances. Pension rights can be lost if the parties do not secure a financial order dealing with Pension Sharing before the final order in the divorce.

The divorce and proceedings for sorting financial arrangements are completely separate and the final order in the divorce is not currently dependent on the financial claims being resolved. the claims are not automatically dismissed and there is no limitation on when they can be brought. Provided the person making the application for a financial remedy order has not remarried, all the claims are open to them and the court will take into account the parties’ financial positions at the time the application is made, which may be very different form that at the time they were separated or divorced.

The new system will enable either party to issue a divorce without having to give a reason other than that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, and the other party will not be able to stop the process under current proposals. This means that a final order could be applied for before financial disputes have been sorted out. Parties will have 6 months from when the divorce application is made to the earliest date the final order can be applied for in which to try and sort out the financial claims, or make an application for a financial remedy order to protect those claims.

It is, of course, open to the couple to separate and come to an agreement over the finances and to divorce when the new law is finally introduced. They would do this by entering into a Separation Agreement. Otherwise, it may be advantageous for one or other of the parties to make an application for divorce so that they are in control of the process. There are some who have suggested that this could be used by some to put unfair pressure on their ex-spouse, or to prolong financial, emotional or psychological abuse.

It is highly recommended that anyone considering separating from their spouse, civil partner or cohabitee take advice at the earliest possible stage about what their rights are and the options open to them.

Andrew Hill is our specialist family lawyer with over 27 years’ experience in all aspects of family law and a trained collaborative lawyer who is happy to speak to you over the phone on an initial no-obligation basis.

If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to call us on 01539 723757.


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 No Fault Divorce Bill Passes Legal Milestone