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The government has reintroduced its Divorce Bill to Parliament, promising it will deliver the “biggest shake-up of divorce laws in half a century”.
The Bill was first introduced in June 2019 before its passage was postponed by the General Election.
Ministers say the new law will remove the current “blame game”, by allowing one spouse (or the couple jointly) to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown. It will also stop one partner contesting a divorce if the other wants one and it will introduce a 20-week period between the initial petition stage and the court granting the provisional decree of divorce (the “decree nisi”).
Under the existing system, one spouse has to make accusations about the other’s conduct, such as “unreasonable behaviour” or adultery, or otherwise face years of separation before a divorce can be granted – regardless of whether a couple has made a mutual decision to separate.
Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC said: “Our reforms will stop divorcing couples having to make unnecessary allegations against one another and instead help them focus on separating amicably.”
Aidan Jones, chief executive at relationships charity Relate, added: “Evidence tells us that parental conflict is damaging to children’s outcomes in life, yet the current fault-based system leads divorcing partners to apportion blame.”
Ministers say the Bill is in keeping with their wider approach to family justice – avoiding confrontation wherever possible and attempting to mitigate damage to children in particular.