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An explanation about the expected divorce changes

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Divorce and dissolution of civil partnership - explanation about the expected divorce changes

On 9 April 2019, the government published its response to the consultation paper, Reducing family conflict: reform of the legal requirements for divorce.

The response states:

•           Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage or civil partnership will be retained as the sole ground on which divorce or dissolution may be granted. However, there will no longer be a requirement to evidence one of five facts.

•           Provision will be made for joint applications to reflect the reality that the decision to divorce or seek a judicial separation is a joint one. A joint application is also conducive to a more conciliatory approach to agreeing future arrangements.

•           The ability to contest divorce proceedings will be removed, as it does not aid reconciliation, can aggravate ongoing conflict and can be exploited by domestic abuse perpetrators. Challenging an application will still be possible on one of the following grounds: jurisdiction, validity of marriage, fraud or coercion and procedural compliance. The government will continue to explore whether existing protections for respondents to a divorce petition should be strengthened.

•           A minimum timeframe of six months will be introduced for the divorce process, made up of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to decree nisi, and six weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute. The minimum period provides sufficient time for reflection and to make future arrangements. The six-month period is in line with Finland, Sweden and California, but longer than in Spain and Colorado and is shorter than the minimum one-year separation period in Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

•           The two-stage divorce process will be retained as it provides an opportunity for the court to investigate matters or refer them to the Queen's Proctor. It also provides a check on the parties' decision to divorce and an opportunity to change course if desired.

•           The government intends to retain the bar on petitioning for a divorce within the first year of marriage (section 3, Matrimonial Causes Act 1973).

•           The power to fix a shorter period between decree nisi and decree absolute will be retained. The government will further consider grounds for expedition, including whether a similar power should apply to the period to decree nisi.

The new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as Parliamentary time allows.


If you would like to speak to one of our family law specialists about separation or divorce, please contact a member of the team at any of our offices in York, Selby, Malton or Pickering.


This news items has been taken from Practical Law Family weekly email to 11 April 2019.