No fault divorce moves closer to royal assent

News Article

England and Wales have moved one step closer to ‘no-fault’ divorce as the landmark Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill received its second reading in Parliament this month.

The long-awaited legislation – described as the biggest ‘shake-up’ of family law in almost 50 years – had been postponed, initially due to the 2019 General Election and then as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Surjit Verdi, a Partner with Palmers who specialises in family law, said: “The new laws, first announced in April last year, will introduce major reforms for divorcing couples, including the introduction of ‘no-fault’ divorce.

“Under this change, separated couples will no longer be required to attribute blame to either party, removing the need to prove one of five grounds for divorce, such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or two or five years of separation.”

The bill will also scrap so-called ‘quickie’ divorces by increasing the minimum waiting period between the initial petition stage and when the court grants the provisional decree of divorce to at least 20 weeks.

Including the existing six-week waiting period between the granting of the decree nisi and the decree absolute, a divorce will now take a minimum of six months to process – around double the current average time.

The second reading comes after recent figures revealed that divorce enquiries in the UK surged following the introduction of Covid-19 lockdown measures.

According to new figures, published by a national law firm, the number of couples enquiring about divorce increased by 42 per cent in March compared to the same period a year ago.

The authors of the study pointed to underlying tensions, such as financial concerns and tensions as a result of couples being in constant close confinement.

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