The present, very temporary, government has reintroduced a bill providing for no-fault divorce in the Queen's Speech.
No fault divorce was part of a previous bill which fell by the wayside with the early prorogation of parliament. Our firm has been a long time campaigner of no fault divorce but like other supporters of this measure we believed all was lost again with the suspension of parliament .
With all the other priorities facing this or any new government, we did not think no fault divorce would be up there with new legislation covering the national health service, clean air, minimum wage and such like.
Of course, as and when a new government is formed after the inevitable forthcoming general election, we hope that the priority given to no-fault divorce is retained and it is brought in as new law very soon after the new government starts work.
To remind you, at present under the divorce laws of England and Wales, a spouse has to make either allegations of conduct or adultery against his or her other spouse to obtain the divorce, or has to demonstrate a long period of separation. All of that goes out of the window with no fault divorce where a spouse simply has to make a statement that a marriage has broken down irretrievably without laying the blame at any one's door for the breakdown. Under the new proposed bill, please note the following further points:
- As now, the parties must have been married for at least one year before filing for divorce;
- There will be a minimum of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and the application for the conditional order for a divorce (the decree nisi). This will be a period for considered reflection before the divorce proceeds.
- Contested divorces will be abolished completely;
- The present 6 week period between the conditional and final order – decree nisi and decree absolute – will remain;
- For the first time, married couples will be able to make a joint application in cases where the decision to divorce is mutual.
We divorce lawyers look forward in great hope to a future where people can have a divorce without going through the incredible pain and distress caused by the current fault-based system.