Government announces Divorce Reform in 2020
On 7th January 2020, the Government re-introduced the Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Bill. If passed into law, it will fundamentally reform English divorce law.
The Bill proposes to remove the requirement for fault and to provide for the entirely unique approach of allowing both spouses to issue a joint petition. This would be a seismic change in the law and is widely welcomed.
The current law, dating from the 1970s, requires ‘fault’ to be proven on the part of one spouse in most cases. This is now widely thought to be unnecessarily divisive and in need of change.
There has been particular pressure from lobby groups following the 2017 case of Mrs Owens when the Supreme Court denied a divorce in the absence of sufficient evidence of ‘unreasonable behaviour’. While it was correct in law, the judgment confirmed the law itself was out of touch.
The lobbying by the family solicitor’s association, Resolution, has been tireless on this issue over many, many years. Solicitors often get a bad name for making money out of divorce but here is the clearest possible evidence of solicitors practising in the field banding together to reform the process for their clients.
The family dynamic has moved on significantly since 1973 - as has everything else. Looking back to 1973, google tells me that the average house price was less than £10,000, petrol was 35p a gallon (whatever one of those is) and there was a 3 day week, which does sound like it was fun. I should explain that in 1973, I was -1.
Therefore, while society has moved on and times have changed, here we are with the same old divorce laws. It is time for change.
At the 2019 Conservative Conference, then Prime Minister Teresa May confirmed the government would support change to the current divorce law. The government, busy as they were, launched a reform bill in Summer 2019 in the House of Commons. The Bill ran out of time. Not unheard of for family law Bills but hopefully there will be widespread support in Parliament to see this exciting change pass into law.
When announcing the reintroduction of the Bill, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland MP said:
'The institution of marriage will always be vitally important, but we must never allow a situation where our laws exacerbate conflict and harm a child’s upbringing. By sparing individuals the need to play the blame game, we are stripping out the needless antagonism this creates so families can better move on with their lives.'
All looks set fair then in a new Parliament. The only thing that can get in the way is the timetable being eaten up by the B word…
A link to the Bill (2019 session) is here;
For further reading, visit the Resolution website;
Giles Wilson LLP