What has happened?
On 25th June the ‘Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020’ received Royal Assent. The new legislation will also apply to judicial separation and civil partnership dissolution petitions.
Why was this needed?
This is a landmark day for Family Law Solicitors. For many years there have been calls for the divorce laws to be changed. At the moment the divorce legislation dates back to 1973 and requires blame to be laid at one person’s door. Otherwise you must wait at least two years after separation to divorce by agreement or even worse 5 years without an agreement.
For many separating couples, this extra layer of unnecessary conflict makes things even harder when in reality it isn’t needed. If a relationship has broken down, there are more than enough things for people to contend with.
What does the new Law say?
We have not got all the information yet but the new Act says that you will be able to petition stating just that the relationship has irretrievably broken down. You will even be able to make a joint statement with the other person to say this. The opportunity to contest the proceedings has been removed.
The new Act does however create a minimum time limit of 6 months for the proceedings. This is intended to give parties time to reflect and to sort out any arrangements.
When will the new divorces start?
There is no firm date but we are told that it is unlikely to be until Autumn 2021. This is to allow all the new measures to be implemented. There will need to be new forms and systems. Undoubtedly there will be some problems to iron out along the way but overall this is good news.
What happens between now and then?
Unfortunately, we are stuck with the existing legislation for now. Whilst we continue to work with what we have, we continue to work hard to reduce unnecessary conflict even within the existing rules.