The changes are designed to remove conflict within the divorce process and introduce a timeframe during which a conditional divorce is granted. The aim is to ensure any decision to divorce is a considered one, but where reconciliation is not possible, reduce conflict and bring about reform whilst supporting the parties to focus on their future needs.
The objectives are to reform the current divorce process by replacing the current requirement to make allegations about the other in terms of infidelity or behaviour or wait for a separation period of either 2 or 5 years. Under the new proposals a statement to the court that the marriage has irretrievably broken down will be required. The bill’s other provisions are to remove the possibility of contesting the divorce process, thus removing a level of potential conflict and to introduce a minimum 20 week period between the start of the proceedings and applying for a conditional order. Currently this is called the Decree Nisi and will be re-termed a Conditional Order, although the current final stage being the Decree Absolute will remain.
There are also plans to introduce a new provision for a joint application in circumstances where the decision to divorce is a mutual one.
This is a welcome step forward in the plans to reform a somewhat antiquated divorce process. We are hopeful that having been highlighted in the Queens Speech on 14 October 2019, the bill can progress under the government’s new legislative programme and will lead to a smoother and more constructive divorce process.