Following on from the Supreme Court ruling in the Owens case and a consultation last Autumn, in April 2019 the government announced they will introduce legislation so that divorcing couples will no longer have to prove fault.
Where we are now
Currently under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 the divorcing party has to evidence at least one of five ‘facts’:
• Unreasonable behaviour
• Two years’ separation (if the other spouse consents to the divorce), or
• Five years’ separation (if the other spouse disagrees).
Where we will be
The new proposal provides that irretrievable breakdown of a marriage will be retained as the sole ground for divorce. The requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ will be replaced with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
The two-stage process of Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute will be retained. A minimum timeframe of six months will be introduced, from petition stage to final divorce.
This much needed decision will help to cut some of the conflict from what can be a highly stressful experience and especially will allow separating parents to focus on the needs of their children instead of proving a fault-based fact against their former partner.
The announcement states that the legislation will be introduced ‘as soon as parliamentary time allows’ so it could still be some time yet as we all know that Brexit is taking up a lot of time at the moment.