New Divorce Law

New Divorce Law

3rd April 2019

Divorcing couples will no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage as the government announced a new law to help reduce family conflict.

The move follows a public consultation where family justice professionals including mediators with direct experience of divorce voiced their support for reform. New legislation will therefore be introduced to Parliament to update our 50-year-old divorce law which has been shown to exacerbate conflict.

Ministers are acting to change the law after responses also revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:
"Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.
While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.
So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good."

Here at South West Mediation we support the proposed changes to the law. The current fault based law encourages couples to apportion blame which has the potential to increase conflict and animosity between them.

Proposals for changes to the law include:

  • retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce
  • replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ around behaviour or separation with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
  • retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
  • creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process
  • removing the ability to contest a divorce
  • introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from petition stage to final divorce (20 weeks from petition stage to decree nisi; 6 weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute).
  • Starting a minimum timeframe at the initial petition stage reflects consultation respondents’ views that couples ‘feel divorced’ when the court grants the provisional decree of divorce (the ‘decree nisi’). This will provide a meaningful period of reflection and the opportunity to turn back. Where divorce is inevitable, it will better enable couples to reach agreement on practical arrangements for the future. Courts will retain the power to expedite the process where appropriate.

    These reforms retain what works well in existing divorce law and remove what stands in the way of resolving difficulties more amicably when a marriage has irretrievably broken down and requires an orderly, legal ending. The new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows.