The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill aims to reform divorce in the UK by removing the need for couples to make allegations about each other’s behaviour – such as adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion – in order to legally separate.
According to the government, the new bill has cross-party support. This means that it is likely that it will become law once the necessary process through Parliament has been completed.
Why has the bill been proposed?
There has been much discussion among legal professionals and experts in recent years about reforming the UK divorce system. However, the talk has turned into action – in the form of the new bill – following the high-profile case of Tini Owens, a woman from Worcestershire who was refused a divorce from her husband. She claimed to the courts that she was unhappy in the relationship, but her husband Hugh Owens refused to agree and the Supreme Court rejected her appeal.
In the case of Tini Owens, she must now wait two years until 2020 until she can legally get divorced. This is a situation facing many UK couples whose relationships have broken down. If one party is willing to accuse the other of unreasonable behaviour, adultery or desertion and provide evidence that a court will accept, they can divorce in as little as three to six months. If the couple wishes to pursue a no-fault divorce or the court rejects their evidence, as in the case of Tini Owens, they remain married for at least two years.
How will the reform affect divorcing couples?
If the bill is made into law, it will hopefully remove or reduce some of the animosity and antagonism often found in divorce cases. When one party ‘blames’ the other, it can stir up further tensions in what can already be a distressing and emotional situation. The reform will mean that couples can separate more amicably, and make important, practical decisions on how assets will be divided and children cared for.
Some are concerned that the new laws will make getting divorced easier, which in turn will cause divorce rates to soar. Justice Secretary David Gauke, who proposed the new bill, argues that this isn’t the case. He says:
"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 mud-slinging 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."
If you need help with divorce, get in touch with Liverpool divorce lawyer Tracey Miller Family Law – call us on 0151 515 3036 or 07795 060 211.