Department for Work & Pensions  

Government to bring back divorce bill

Government to bring back divorce bill

The government has reaffirmed its commitment to divorce legislation which it hopes will reduce family conflict and introduce a "no fault" process. 

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill did not directly feature in yesterday's (December 19) Queen's Speech, but the government included it in the supporting documents and pledged to remove unnecessary conflict during the divorce process.

The government said the "long-overdue" reform would benefit families by supporting parties in a divorce looking to the future rather than "raking over allegations about the past". 

Under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 couples seeking a divorce must give evidence of at least one of five facts, three being based on "fault" and two based on a period of separation. 

This means couples can currently divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion, unreasonable behaviour, separation for two years if both parties mutually agree on the divorce, or on the basis of five years of separation if one of the couple does not agree to the divorce. 

The key elements of the new bill will retain the sole ground of divorce as "irretrievable breakdown" but replace the requirement to also make an allegation about the other spouse’s conduct or demonstrate a period of separation.

It is hoped the new legislation will mean divorcing couples no longer have to blame each other for the breakdown of their marriage. 

The government said it hoped the new rules would encourage couples to be "as constructive as possible". 

An option for a joint application will also be introduced where the decision to divorce is a mutual one. 

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "This should help take some of the pointless blame-storming out of divorces, and save the expense associated with the added aggravation and delay it causes."

The government also said it was committed to reducing the levels of harmful conflict between parents through its £39m Reducing Parental Conflict programme, run by the department for Work and Pensions. 

Ros Bever, national head of family law at Irwin Mitchell, said it was a shame there was no mention of no-fault divorce in the Queen’s Speech itself in light of the work done by campaigners and lawmakers to see a change in the law.

But she added: "Although it wasn’t singled out as a priority the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was included in the background notes so we hope to see swift progress through parliament.

"Talk of shifting divorce law away from the ‘blame game’ has been rumbling on for decades, while families have to deal with the unnecessary stress and tension that a conflict-based divorce system creates."

rachel.mortimer@ft.com 

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