Divorce Bill ends the “Blame Game” which is good news for Mediation.
7th July 2020 by Kenneth Clarke
In the most significant overhaul of divorce law in the last fifty years, divorcing couples will no longer have to allege adultery or dredge up allegations of unreasonable behaviour in order to obtain a divorce.
The Divorce Dissolution and Separation Act has finally gained Royal Assent and although the changes will not come into effect until later next year, once implemented a spouse or couple will be able to apply for a divorce without alleging unreasonable behaviour or adultery or have to face years of separation before their divorce can be finalised.
A divorce petition will simply have to confirm that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This will also prevent a respondent from contesting the divorce and prolonging a marriage that has clearly run its course.
An innovative provision also creates a new and extended minimum timeframe of six months from the initial application to the granting of a divorce. This will offer couples the time to reflect and turn back, or, where reconciliation is not possible, agree important arrangements for the future, including arrangements for their children.
The needless blame game and acrimonious “finger pointing” has characterised the divorce process for too long. It not only delayed the ending of unhappy marriages but also encouraged even more acrimony between the party’s post-separation.
Such acrimony created stressful battles over children and financial settlements, causing an even deeper rift between the parties, further delay and financial and emotional costs to the whole family.
The mediation community will welcome this seismic change in an archaic legislation that frankly was not in tune with “the real world.”
Whilst the wider family justice system has embraced attempts to help families resolve their issues in a non-confrontational way, the divorce process trundled on like a tired old warhorse.
The ending of the blame game should help parties focus on resolving their children and financial arrangements, without carrying into the negotiation room feelings of anger and hostility generated by a “fault” divorce procedure that was simply satisfying the legal system, rather than serving the parties.
The key elements of the Divorce Separation and Dissolution Act will:
- Replace the current requirement to evidence either conduct or separation “fact” with the provision of a statement of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and couples can opt to make this a joint statement
- Remove the possibility of contesting the decision to divorce, as a statement will be conclusive that the marriage has irretrievably broken down
- Introduces a new minimum of 20 weeks from the start of proceedings to confirmation to the court that a conditional order of divorce may be made, allowing greater opportunity for couples to agree practical arrangements for the future where reconciliation is not possible, and divorce is inevitable
This last clause will be music to mediators’ ears, as one of the benefits of the mediation process is that it helps separating couples resolve children and financial issues as quickly as possible. This was often hampered by prolonged and contentious divorce proceedings.
Conflict resolution is never easy, but the new act will hopefully make the mediation process easier for parties to navigate. Certainly the removal of fault lines from the divorce process will eradicate at least one item of discontent from the agenda in the mediation room.
Another positive knock-on effect of the new legislation could be that mediation will become an even more attractive option to couples looking for a speedy resolution of their issues.
Laceys Mediation have offices based in Poole and Southampton. If you would like any further advice on mediation please contact our Mediation department on 01202 721822 or firstname.lastname@example.org who will be happy to help.