Biggest Family Law Change In Decades After Divorce Bill Reaches Royal Assent During Lockdown
The biggest change to family law in decades has been introduced this week (29 June) with no-fault divorce becoming law, after thirty years of campaigning.
The debate over no-fault divorce was reignited in 2018, when Tini Owens sought to divorce her husband but he had contested it. Mrs Owens was denied a divorce from the Supreme Court on because her husband’s behaviour wasn’t considered to be unreasonable enough.
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was soon introduced after the case, facing hurdles in the form of dissolved Parliaments, general elections and Brexit uncertainty, but third time has been the charm for the biggest change in family law for 50 years.
The new law means divorces can’t be contested, and evidence won’t be needed for using irretrievable breakdown as grounds – ending the ‘blame game’ and making divorce much simpler for modern times, expert family lawyers at leading national law firm Irwin Mitchell say.
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has confirmed the government is ‘working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in autumn 2021’.
Expert Opinion“It’s been a marathon but no-fault divorce is finally a reality in England and Wales, which will make divorces easier and cheaper for couples.
“Getting rid of the ‘blame game’ means partners can focus on carving a new path forward for the sake of their children, or on having a clean break financially or otherwise, without the emotional drama from a divorce.
“This huge change has come at an already extraordinary time, with lockdown acting as a pressure pot for couples that were already feeling the strain. Long before the coronavirus crisis, many of our clients said they were waiting for the new legislation to come in, so if there was ever going to be a divorce spike then autumn 2021 would be the time to see it.” Ros Bever - Partner
According to the BBC, a divorce spike was seen in Scotland in 2006 when a no-fault divorce option after a year of living apart was introduced. While there were 10,875 divorces in 2005, a figure of more than 13,000 was recorded a year later.
Family Law experts urge for the momentum of change to continue, with other areas of law needing urgent attention.
Ros continued: “No-fault divorce is an excellent step forwards in our family law history, but it shouldn’t be the last. Lockdown has forced many couples to move in together, but they have very little legal protection if something goes wrong. Surely this should be the next step in bringing family law into this century?
“The Law Commission reported in 2007 with recommendations for cohabitation reform that have been ignored by successive governments, so it’s time to take this win and continue the campaign for cohabitation law.”