Helen Cankett, Partner and Head of the Family team at BPE Solicitors, discusses new changes taking place next year which will allow couples to divorce without the need to apportion blame or to wait for a period of separation.
The journey of separation and divorce is not one taken lightly and is often emotionally charged. Under current law, couples looking to start divorce proceedings must prove that their marriage has broken down by choosing one of five reasons:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separation – at least two years with consent
- Separation – five years or more
Choosing adultery or unreasonable behaviour as a reason means one party is forced to blame the other, causing additional stresses and hostility at an already difficult time. The other three reasons all require a minimum of two years to have passed before divorce proceedings can begin which brings its own complications and can draw an already difficult process out further.
It has now been announced that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (which was given Royal Assent last year) will come into force on 6th April 2022.
From this date, couples will no longer need to blame one another or wait for the two-year minimum separation period to get divorced. Instead there will be an additional option, with parties simply able to state that they agree that their marriage has broken down irretrievably and to agree to end the marriage in a timely and amicable manner.
Current divorce laws in the UK date back to 1973 and many will view this as a positive step in the in the right direction for a more amicable resolution.
Whilst some critics may view the new Act as allowing people to pursue a ‘quickie’ divorce, this is unlikely to be the case. The Act is not designed to reduce the length of time divorce proceedings take, rather the new option will provide couples with a more amicable start to their divorce and hopefully, lead to a reduction in stress and acrimony at what can be a very challenging and upsetting time.
As family lawyers, we do not encounter couples who take the idea of divorce lightly. Indeed many couples I have advised would have welcomed the opportunity to take a route which avoided blame at this stage of their relationship in order to move on and work on key issues such as arrangements for their children or their finances without the issue of blame in the background. By the time most couples consider divorce, their relationship has already broken down beyond irretrievably so this Act will help couples split more amicably.
Usually, unreasonable behaviour is given as the top reason for divorce however this is likely to change from April as couples look to divorce in the most harmonious way possible.
As a Family Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer at BPE Solicitors, I can help with all aspects of relationship breakdowns, from negotiating financial settlements to agreeing arrangements for children.
For more information about the new Act or for advice on a family law matter, please contact me directly, eamil firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01242 248256 or another member of the BPE Family team and we will be happy to discuss your options or concerns.
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