New Bill signals end to divorce “blame game”

The end of the divorce “blame game” draws near as new legislation re-entered Parliament this week.

According to the Government, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill represents the “biggest shake-up of divorce laws in half a century”.

The new laws – which aim to reduce conflict among families – will remove the legal requirement to make accusations about the other’s conduct, such as ‘unreasonable behaviour’ or adultery, or prove long-term separation.

Under current rules, a couple cannot divorce until one partner has proven there are grounds for divorce.

The new Bill will also prevent partners from contesting a divorce, after reports that this law enabled domestic abusers to “exercise further coercive control over their victim”. Instead, the legislation will introduce a new 20-week period of “reflection” between petition and decree of divorce. The Government said this will allow couples to cooperate and make meaningful arrangements for the future.

The laws were first introduced in June 2019 but were withdrawn to allow for the General Election in December.

Welcoming the announcement, Aidan Jones, Chief Executive at relationships charity Relate, said: “We’re pleased to see this important bill being reintroduced to Parliament today and hope for the sake of countless families that it is passed. Evidence tells us that parental conflict is damaging to children’s outcomes in life, yet the current fault-based system leads divorcing partners to apportion blame.

“The proposed changes will encourage a positive start to the new relationship divorcing couples must form as co-parents. Divorce isn’t a decision people tend to take lightly but the introduction of a minimum timeframe will provide an opportunity for couples to reflect and seek vital support such as counselling and mediation.”

Do you need family law advice? Get in touch with our expert team today.