The Ministry of Justice have announced that new divorce legislation will be introduced, "as soon as Parliamentary time allows."
The Family Solicitors team at Holmes & Hills welcome this news. The changes will allow parties to divorce without blame. There will no longer be any need to raise allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Instead, you will be able to simply state that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
The current process is due to remain, in that there will be a Decree Nisi with the divorce being finalised by Decree Absolute. There will be an option for a joint application for divorce. The new rules specify that there will be a minimum period of six months from the start of the divorce to the final decree absolute stage. At the end of this six month period the Applicant will be required to affirm their decision to divorce before the decree absolute is granted, allowing the parties a period of reflection on their decision to end the marriage.
The pressure to reform divorce law increased after the much publicised case of Owens in which the Supreme Court ruled last year that Mrs Owens could not divorce her husband and had to wait until a period of five years had elapsed even though the parties had been living separately since 2015. Mrs Owens will have to remain married until 2020.
At Holmes & Hills, we have been long standing advocates of an amicable divorce. Many clients want matters to move forward as amicably as possible because an amicable divorce is certainly less stressful for both parties - especially if any children are involved - and is undoubtedly cheaper.
Current divorce law dates back to a 1973 Act and has been in need of reform for a considerable amount of time. Unfortunately, however, we will have to wait until Parliamentary time becomes available, it is currently unclear how long that will take.
This is good news, but for now we must continue with the old law and wait in anticipation for the new changes to be introduced.