Family and children

‘No fault’ divorce becomes law

News the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has received royal assent and ‘no fault’ divorce may be implemented from autumn 2021 was today welcomed by the Law Society of England and Wales.*

“The introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce is a landmark moment and will change for the better the way couples separate,” said Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 90,871 opposite sex couples and 428 same sex couples divorced in 2018.**

“Until now, divorce law in England and Wales had not changed in over 50 years and has long been due an overhaul,” said Simon Davis.

“Under the current divorce system, separating couples either have to prove a fault-based fact against their ex-partner or spend years still married to obtain a divorce – which only exacerbates tensions.

“For separating parents, it can be much harder to focus on the needs of their children when they have to prove a fault-based fact or remain married to their former partner for years.

“Introducing ‘no fault’ divorce will cut unnecessary conflict from the separation process – allowing couples to move on as amicably as possible and focus on what really matters.

“However, there are still some practical details which need to be assessed.

“We have long argued the notice period should begin when the divorce application is received by the respondent rather than when the divorce is applied for – ensuring both partners are on the same page from the start and have sufficient time to seek the legal and financial advice they need.

Since the government implemented the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act in 2013, legal aid for early advice for family law cases has been cut and the number of litigants in person in the courts has increased.

“Early legal advice helps nip problems in the bud before they have a chance to escalate,” said Simon Davis.

“Family law is a good example where early advice saves money. Before the 2013 cuts, solicitors providing early advice were a significant source of referrals to mediation – avoiding costly court hearings.

“We commend the government for passing this landmark legislation and would welcome any opportunities to address our concerns around the notice period and legal aid for early advice.

“These ‘no fault’ reforms will bring our divorce law into the 21st century and ensure that going forwards, separating couples do not suffer unnecessary conflict.”

Notes to editors

*See details of the Bill’s progress. In the Bill’s third reading, the Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland stated: “The Bill’s reforms will not come into force on Royal Assent, because time needs to be allowed for careful implementation. At this early stage, we are working towards an indicative timetable of implementation in autumn 2021.” Read the Hansard transcript.

**Read the Office of National Statistics data.

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