Couples seeking a no-fault divorce will have to wait until autumn 2021 even though proposed legislation removing fault from the divorce process has reached the finishing line of its parliamentary journey.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill concluded its passage through the House of Commons yesterday. It will return to the House of Lords to consider an amendment before receiving Royal assent. However, lord chancellor Robert Buckland told MPs that the bill’s reforms will not come into force on Royal assent ‘because time needs to be allowed for careful implementation’.
Buckland said: ‘At this early stage, we are working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in autumn 2021.’
Under the current laws in England and Wales, unless someone can prove adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to get a divorce without a spouse’s agreement is to live apart for five years.
The new laws, the first for 50 years, will keep “irretrievable breakdown” of a marriage as the sole grounds for divorce.
However, rather than having to live apart or provide evidence of their spouse’s behaviour, as is the case now, the person seeking the divorce will instead be able to make a statement that the marriage has broken down.
Under the proposed new legislation, it will also be possible for couples to make joint divorce applications, alongside the current option for one party to initiate the process.
It would also scrap the ability of a husband or wife to contest a divorce – used in fewer than 2 per cent of cases. A six-month minimum period that must elapse between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final would also be introduced.