Draft changes to the Family Procedure Rules following the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 – Law Society response

The proposals

On 16 December 2020, the Family Procedure Rule Committee launched a consultation on draft changes to the Family Procedure Rules 2010.

The consultation proposed:

  • amendments to part 6 (service)
  • new rules in part 7 (procedure for applications in matrimonial and civil partnership proceedings)

These changes seek to give procedural effect to the revised legislative framework brought about by the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (DDSA 2020).

On implementation, the DDSA 2020 will bring about the most significant changes to the law of divorce, dissolution and separation in almost half a century. These statutory changes will require significant procedure rule changes.

The consultation paper outlines the most substantive changes that are proposed by the committee, most notably in respect of service (both within and outside the jurisdiction) and joint applications.

Other key changes include the definition of disputed cases, and the listing of case management hearings in disputed cases.

Our view

We've long supported the campaign to remove blame from the divorce process in England and Wales.

We remain committed to supporting steps to remove conflict from the divorce process, and encourage parties to reach amicable agreements around their finances and the needs of any children of the marriage.

We think the Family Procedure Rules Committee (FPRC) should review the proposed rules to ensure respondents are provided with sufficient opportunity to seek independent legal and financial advice. This would enable respondents to understand their position and make the best decisions for themselves and any children they have.

In addition to the proposed rule changes, we made further comments on areas not covered by the consultation questions.

The new rules make no allowance to delay the final order to prevent the unintended loss of pension rights and protections for the non-pension member. We believe that this could be remedied with changes to the Family Procedure Rules (FPR).

We've detailed these concerns in our previous parliamentary briefings and our submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights scrutiny of the bill. We would urge the FPRC to reconsider their approach to this matter.

In addition, we do not see clear signposting in relation to both the need to properly resolve financial matters before final order, and the ability to find out more by attending a mediation information and assessment meeting (MIAM).

Next steps

The consultation closed on 2 March 2021.

The results of the consultation are being analysed.

View the consultation on the GOV.UK website

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