Sharon Priday Managing Associate, Family and Matrimonial
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, the “evolution” of the legal process
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill that brings in “no fault” applications to end married and registered civil partnership relationships comes before the House of Commons today for its second reading.
The effect of the Bill, if it becomes law, will be that for the first time, the parties to a marriage or registered civil partnership can apply to the court to bring the legal relationship to an end on the simple ground that the relationship has “broken down irretrievably.” The application can be lodged by either or both parties to the relationship. For the court to allow the application to proceed on this basis, the court must be satisfied that the party or parties who made the application wish to proceed. Such separate confirmation cannot be given (unless express leave is applied for and granted) until 20 weeks after the initial application is made to the court. This “cooling off” period will allow parties time to reflect upon their decision to end the relationship.
These new applications cannot be lodged until the first anniversary of the legal relationship, but can be made at any time after that.
Currently, for parties to end their relationship after the first anniversary of the marriage, applications for divorce or juridical separation must rely on either adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Parties in a registered civil partnership must rely on unreasonable behaviour. In this case, the person applying must satisfy the court that they have sufficient evidence to proceed. This requirement is satisfied by the party applying, providing a written statement of their partner’s behaviour that they found to be unreasonable. This can be an unpleasant process both for the person having to give details of the behaviour and by their partner when receiving the application.
The new procedure will make it easier for parties to end their relationship. The Bill represents a significant development in family law and a move away from the unpleasantness of the “behaviour” application. It should enable parties to focus not on the past, but on the future, and to move forward to resolve any financial issues or issues involving the care of children, in a more pleasant and non-confrontational environment. Therefore, the new procedure proposed is welcomed by many members of the legal profession.
If you are considering a separation and wish to consider your options, we have experienced family law solicitors who are able to provide you with both the legal and practical advice that you need to move forward. Contact the Family team at Ince in Cardiff on 02920 100950 to arrange an appointment, or to have an initial conversation with an experienced family solicitor.