The end (of the blame game)

On 07 June 2021, it has been announced that the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 which will allow married couples to divorce without alleging blame or waiting at least two years with the other’s consent to avoid alleging blame will come into force on 06 April 2022.

The current law is that you can only present a petition for divorce after one year of marriage and to satisfy the Court that you are entitled to a decree of divorce, you need to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. To prove this, you raise and rely on one of five facts:

  1. Your spouse has had sexual intercourse with a member of their opposite sex and you find it intolerable to remain in the marriage (adultery);
  2. Your spouse has behaved in such a way that you can no longer reasonably be expected to live with them (unreasonable behaviour);
  3. Your spouse has deserted you for a continuous period of two years immediately preceding the presentation of the divorce petition (two years’ desertion);
  4. You and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of two years preceding the presentation of the petition and your spouse consents to a decree of divorce (two years’ separation with consent);
  5. You and your spouse have lived apart for a continuous period of five years (five years’ separation).

Therefore, spouses reaching the end of their marriage currently can divorce without blame but they have to wait two years and have the other’s consent which can be withdrawn at any time prior to Decree Nisi being pronounced (which is an order made at stage two of three of the divorce process approximately after 2-3 months) or wait a period of five years from separation.

But, is that fit for a society in the 21st century where social and family values have changed. The law we currently have is from 1973. Family lawyers and Parliament thought not.

Under the new system which will come into force on 06 April 2022, couples will be able to divorce without any blame being alleged, without waiting for a period of at least two years to do so and can even file a joint divorce application.

Will it be worth the wait? Time will only tell but we at Freeman Johnson believe that this new law will be a gamechanger as many couples accept that their marriage has simply broken down and they wish to remain amicable. It will enable couples to maintain a much more dignified approach in formally bringing to a close a significant chapter of their life without unnecessary mudslinging.

The Government’s press release on website summarised the aims of the new process quite well:

“The new laws seek to align the divorce law process with the government’s approach elsewhere in family law – encouraging a forward-looking non-confrontational approach wherever possible, thereby reducing conflict and its damaging effect on children in particular.”

Therefore, it can be argued that the law in relation to divorce will finally come of age and reflect societal values which have evolved over the last 48 years.

However, such matters are complicated and if you are in any doubt over your legal position or wish to discuss and explore the options then our family team at Freeman Johnson would be happy to assist. Discussing the matter with a lawyer does not automatically mean that Court proceedings will be commenced; our lawyers at Freeman Johnson take a non-confrontational forward-looking approach to such cases including exploring collaborative law, mediation, negotiation, round the table meetings and can advise on the appropriateness of Court proceedings if that were to be deemed necessary in an individual’s case.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this blog or you have any question relating to your case, please contact our offices to arrange an appointment with a member of our family team.

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