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Divorce ‘blame game’ almost at an end

There may not be much agreement in parliament at the moment, but one thing that does have cross party support is a landmark Bill that entered the Commons on 13 June 2019.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will force a huge shake-up of divorce laws that have been in place for almost 50 years. The Bill aims to reduce unnecessary conflict between divorcing couples by removing the need to attach blame or make allegations about each other.

Don Bird, senior partner and head of family law at Atherton Godfrey, commented: “These proposals have widespread support from the public and professionals as well as politicians. Under the new proposals divorce will not become easier or quicker, it will simply become less acrimonious because the need to attach blame has been removed. The proposals also introduce a minimum time frame that will help couples to focus on what’s important and find agreement on matters involving their children and financial issues.”

Justice secretary David Gauke said: “Marriage will always be a vitally important institution in society, but when a relationship breaks down it cannot be right that the law adds fuel to the fire by incentivising couples to blame each other. By removing the unnecessary mudslinging the current process can needlessly rake up, we’ll make sure the law plays its part in allowing couples to move on as amicably and constructively as possible. I’m proud to introduce this important legislation which will make a genuine difference to many children and families.”

Margaret Heathcote, chair of Resolution, the family justice professionals group, added: “We’re delighted that the government is introducing legislation which will help reduce conflict between divorcing couples.  Every day, our members are helping people through separation, taking a constructive, non-confrontational approach in line with our Code of Practice. However, because of our outdated divorce laws, they’ve been working effectively with one arm tied behind their backs.”

Under the current law couples have to evidence that their marriage has broken down irretrievably by proving adultery or unreasonable behaviour or stay in the marriage for at least two years, even where both have agreed the marriage is at an end.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill will:

• Allow couples to make a joint statement that their marriage has irretrievably broken down
• Remove the ability for one party to contest the divorce
• Introduce a 20 week ‘cooling off’ period giving couples time to reflect on their decision after which they will need to confirm that they cannot reconcile


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