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Divorce reforms

At the present time if you wish to start divorce proceedings this is governed by the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974. In June 2020 The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 was passed which sets to reform the divorce process. This has been passed but currently awaits implementation. The new law will retain irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce and it will replace the requirement to specify one of the five grounds for divorce with a statement and reasons of the breakdown, thereby taking away the requirement to administer any blame to one party.

The current divorce process works largely on the concept of fault. This has attracted criticism for many years due to causing further conflict within an already unsettling situation of a divorce.

In order to start a divorce under the current law it must be shown under S1(1) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1974 that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This is satisfied by the petitioner of the divorce fulfilling one of the following five facts specified below;

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Separation for two years with both parties consenting
  • Separation for five years
  • Desertion

There is the further requirement of only being able to start divorce proceedings after parties have been married for one year.

There have been calls for reform due to the current law being outdated. An example of this is highlighted by the requirements of establishing adultery.  In order to prove adultery under S1(6) of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 only conduct between a person of the opposite sex constitutes the ground of adultery.  In addition, the grounds of unreasonable behaviour require the petitioner in the divorce to state the unreasonable grounds. The mere fact that parties have grown apart or become bored within the marriage, or that parties are simply incompatible will not be sufficient.

Under the current divorce law if adultery or unreasonable behaviour does not apply then the divorce can only proceed after 2 years of separation between the parties. The Respondent in the divorce does have to consent to this and if the respondent does not consent then the petitioner has no grounds for divorce until 5 years of separation has passed.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 aims to replace the five reasons for divorce with a new statement of the marriage breaking down irretrievably. The new reforms aim to remove the fault base and seek to introduce a joint application. The new law is not yet implemented as at the present time divorces must proceed under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

If you would like advice regarding divorce please contact AWD on 01329 232314 or at www.awdlaw.co.uk. We are offering a 30 minute no cost consultation to advise you on the process so you can better understand your options available when starting a divorce.

Alyciette Edwards

Chartered Legal Executive

October 2020