The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 (“Act”) received royal assent nearly a year ago, on 26 June 2020, when the Government announced that the Act would be brought into force this autumn. This followed 30 years of campaigning by the family law organisation, Resolution, as well as many other people, to have fault removed from the divorce process.
I was one of the 150 Resolution members who attended a lobby of Parliament organised by Resolution in 2016, to make MPs aware of the need to remove fault from divorce and the damaging impact that fault-based divorce has on separating families, especially children.
I was also one of the group of Resolution members who held a rally outside the Supreme Court in 2018, on the day when the Supreme Court Justices delivered their judgment in the unsuccessful appeal brought by Mrs. Tini Owens against the court’s refusal to grant her a divorce based on her husband’s alleged unreasonable behaviour. As a result, Mrs. Owens found herself trapped in a loveless marriage and forced to wait until the couple had been separated for five years before she could get a divorce.
394 MPs voted in favour of bringing in no-fault divorce in June 2020, demonstrating the support across the political spectrum for this important change in the law.
Delay in implementation to 6 April 2022
This month, however, in a written response to a Parliamentary question from Jane Stevenson, the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton North-East, asking what progress has been made to implement the provisions of the Act, Courts Minister Chris Philip MP revealed that the intended date for implementation has slipped and the Act will now not be brought into force until 6 April 2022.
It is unclear whether the delay in implementation would have been announced by the Government but for the parliamentary question and whilst the delay in implementation is very disappointing, at least we know when the Act will be brought into force.
As Mr. Philip said in his written answer: “The new divorce process will work to reduce conflict, which is especially damaging for children.” Senior members of Resolution have met with the Ministry of Justice on a regular basis and have received assurances from the Government that they remain fully committed to bringing the Act into force next year. Let us hope that they do so!
This important reform will enable parents who are experiencing separation and divorce to focus on the wellbeing of their children, rather than the reasons for the breakdown of their marriage and who is to blame for them.
The reasons for the breakdown of a marriage are usually irrelevant to the division of the assets of the marriage and our current fault-based divorce system (with the majority of divorces being based on the “unreasonable behaviour” of one of the spouses) serves no useful purpose, raises the emotional temperature and makes it more difficult for divorcing couples to reach an agreement concerning the arrangements for their children and the financial aspects of their divorce.
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