By Marie Kilgallen, Family Law associate
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill is due to receive its second reading today (8 June). With an expected spike in divorce cases as lockdown restrictions ease, it is important that life goes on in relation to new divorce legislation.
Having faced the hurdles of the unlawful prorogation of Parliament in September 2019 followed by the General Election in December 2019, there were fears that the Bill would, once again, be put on the back burner as a result of Covid-19.
The main proposed change is that divorcing couples will be able to file a Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown rather than provide evidence of conduct or separation supported by one of a number of 'facts'.
It will therefore no longer be possible to contest the basis of the divorce and the Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown will be sufficient. The courts will be able to make a Conditional Order after twenty weeks has passed from the start of the proceedings.
The introduction of no-fault divorce came to the fore following the controversial Supreme Court decision in July 2018 in Owens v Owens, which ruled Tini Owens could not divorce her husband. Supreme Court judges urged for the law to be reviewed.
The advancement of no-fault divorce is to be welcomed. It should reduce conflict and, importantly, set the tone for dealing with financial and children matters.
This is particularly important for couples, who as a result of lockdown during Covid-19, remain living together, although separated, who are considering a divorce. In those circumstances, being able to avoid blaming the other party would be an enormous benefit. The magnitude of the shake up to divorce law cannot be underestimated, and no-fault divorce is long overdue.
Having faced and overcome Brexit and Covid-19, it is hoped that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will swiftly become law showing that despite unprecedented times life must and should go on.
Specialist lawyers also broadly back the reform, arguing that the present system creates unnecessary hostility between divorcing spouses by forcing them to apportion blame, which can have a negative effect on children.