What is the Current Divorce Law?

What is the Current Divorce Law?

Some might say this has been a long time overdue but a change is now on the horizon. The Government has submitted a proposed change to existing divorce law for Parliament to debate which if agreed will amend the current procedure for divorce across England and Wales. This will allow separating couples to divorce more quickly and without blame.

Existing Law

At present to divorce the parties need to have been married for 1 year and the petitioner has to show that the marriage has broken down irretrievably by stating one of five facts:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion for at least two years
  • Living apart for at least two years with consent from your spouse to divorce
  • Living apart for at least five years

This means that if you wish to divorce prior to being separated for 2 years you must show some blame/fault on the part of your spouse either by way of adultery or unreasonable behaviour.  This doesn’t always reflect the reality of the situation, some couples simply grow apart.

Proposed Changes to the Law 

If/when the proposals are brought into effect you will only need to state that the marriage has broken down. Joint applications for divorce will be possible and the ability to defend/contest a divorce will be removed.  There will be a minimum period of 6 months from the petition being lodged before the applicant will be required to affirm their decision to seek a divorce following which the divorce will be granted.  This allows a period for reflection and an opportunity to reconcile.  Mirrored changes will be made to the law governing dissolution of civil partnerships.

When is the Law going to be Changed?  Should I wait to Start my Divorce?

It is not possible to accurately predict when the law will be changed.  The proposed changes must be approved by both the House of Commons and House of Lords.  The Bill still needs to go through its Third Reading within the House of Commons on a date to be announced.  It must then go through three readings, committee and report stages in the House of Lords.  Consideration of amendments will then be carried out and the Bill will be sent for Royal Assent at which point it would become law.  It is therefore possible that further changes to the proposals may be made and there is no guarantee that the proposals will make law.

There are still several procedural stages for the proposals to go through before they will become law.  It usually takes around 1 year to complete the process of Bill approval however it is anticipated that Brexit could take up a significant amount of Parliamentary time meaning it will not be on Parliament’s priority list meaning it is likely to take longer.  In view of this uncertainty and the probable length of time you will have to wait you may wish to seek further advice on the law as it currently stands.   If you would like to know what options are available to you please give us a call or email us and one of our friendly team will be happy to help.