It is almost a year since legislation was passed to enable couples seeking a no-fault divorce. This followed years of campaigning from lawyers calling for reform. Cara Lahnstein comments on the recent much-awaited Government announcement.
No-fault divorce is now set to become reality. Yesterday the government committed to the introduction of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 on 6 April 2022. This reform has been long awaited and will be the biggest change to divorce law in our lifetime. Separating couples will no longer need to assign blame in the divorce process.
Originally, the Act received royal assent on 25 June 2020 with plans to implement in autumn 2021. Understandably delayed because of the pandemic, 6 April 2022 is now fixed as a matter of Parliamentary record, rather than the indicative timetable previously being worked toward.
The new law will replace the need for evidence of conduct, such as adultery or unreasonable behaviour, or proof of separation, and instead will only require divorcing couples to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown. It will also do away with the possibility of contested divorce applications, as the statement will act as decisive evidence that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.
Human nature can dictate that if someone has been wronged, there should be a consequence for the other party. However, courts and lawyers try to be more forward thinking and recognise that wishing to blame your partner creates an unnecessary disruption for many couples during the divorce. The focus should be on reaching a resolution as quickly and painlessly as possible.
We may still have a long way to go in terms of legal reform to accurately reflect the needs of today’s more complex “family” and relationship structures. However, finally stamping out the archaic concept of “fault” and the negativity associated with the need for one spouse to bear the full brunt of the blame for the relationship breakdown, must enable a healthier, kinder and more constructive start for a couple embarking on separate futures. We can expect the change to particularly benefit children, so often caught in the crossfire of their parents’ emotional power struggle. It is hoped that the no-fault culture will encourage a more civilised and calmer environment in which to discuss co-parenting and a fair provision for future family life.
We see first-hand the emotional cost of divorce proceedings when conducted in a spiteful and unnecessarily acrimonious manner. It is not anticipated that this change in the law will encourage more people to divorce but it is hoped that it will enable divorcing couples to focus on the practical consequences of their separation, particularly when there are children, without getting caught up in the “blame game”.
This reform will help couples shift their attention away from why the breakdown occurred with a focus instead on what is needed, by them both, to move forward with their lives as positively as possible.
We at LMP wholly support this new legislation.