In the biggest shake up of divorce laws for half a century, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has been brought back before Parliament this week.

First introduced in June 2019, the new law aims to remove the ‘blame game’ often associated with divorce in the UK. Currently, divorcing couples are able to divorce:

  • On the grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’, adultery or desertion;
  • after two years of separation (where both parties agree);
  • after five years of separation

The new Bill removes the element of blame and allows one or both parties to make a statement of irretrievable breakdown. In addition there will be a 20 week period between the initial petition and the granting of the ‘decree nisi’ which will allow a couple time to reflect, make sure they have made the right decision and work together on their future such as financial arrangements and childcare.

Between 2016 and 2018 almost half of divorces relied on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour as a period of separation is often not an option for many couples who cannot afford to run two households. The introduction of the 20 week period between petition and decree nisi is a new element as there is currently no minimum time between these two stages of the divorce process.

It is widely recognised that parental conflict has a detrimental impact on children and by removing the need to blame the other party, it is hoped that the process will become less acrimonious and encourage the use of mediation to resolve issues in a more positive way.