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Divorce / dissolution - and how the law is changing

Dissolution of a civil partnership

To end your civil partnership, you need to seek permission from the court. An individual can request the court to grant a dissolution order if the civil partnership has lasted more than a year.

If the court is to approve your civil partnership dissolution application, you will need to demonstrate that your relationship has irretrievably broken down. There are four facts you can use to prove this:

  1. Your partner has behaved unreasonably.
  2. Your partner has deserted you for a two year period.
  3. You have been separated for two years and your partner agrees to the dissolution.
  4. You have lived apart for a five year period.

It doesn't matter where you entered into the partnership, but to dissolve the partnership, you will need to meet certain residence conditions. For example, at least one of you must live in England or Wales. You will not normally have to attend the court or see the Judge to get a dissolution, unless your partner suggests they want to defend the proceedings. This is quite rare and defended civil partnership proceedings are usually quite costly.

If the civil partnership has not lasted a year, it can still be ended but the individual must seek a separation order. However, neither party will be able to register another civil partnership until a dissolution order has been granted by the court.  If the civil partnership was not entered into legally, an individual can also seek to end it through an annulment order.

Divorce

Currently, the divorce process in England and Wales is based on a fault based process. In addition to the four facts that you may rely on for the dissolution of a civil partnership, you must also prove one of the five facts to demonstrate that a marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The five facts are:

  1. Adultery
  2. Unreasonable behaviour
  3. Desertion for a period of two years.
  4. Two years separation with the partners consent.
  5. Separation for a period of five years.

This fault based process has made divorce particularly complex.

How is the law set to change regarding no-fault divorce?

In April 2019 the Government confirmed that it would go ahead with the planned changes b cy introducing new legislation.

Divorcing couples will see an overhaul and will no longer have to play the ‘blame game’ throughout divorce proceedings. In contrast, it is thought that couples can instead divorce on fairer grounds where the court takes a more sympathetic and supportive approach to the process.

Modernisation of the law should also alleviate the damaging impact the divorce process can have on the children of a family. The current system often creates a hostile environment between partners, which in turn has a harmful impact on the mental health of the parties involved. A no fault divorce process would seek to reduce these impacts and alleviate much of the stress.

The new legislation will implement the following:

  • Couples will be able to give notice jointly
  • Allow joint applications to become sole applications (and vice versa)
  • Remove the ability for one person to contest a divorce
  • Retain the two stage process of decree nisi and decree absolute
  • Introduce a minimum timeframe of six months from petition to decree absolute
  • Modernise the language used in the divorce process.

The same will apply to the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Will this speed up the divorce / dissolution process?

As far as timescales are concerned, the modernised law is unlikely to speed up the process of divorce as the main focus is on ending the relationship on a more amicable basis. 

A further point to consider is that the Family Courts are currently under huge strain and therefore, fewer lengthy divorce cases are likely to support the system as a whole and reduce the pressure on administrative staff.

How can a solicitor help?

A common concern from individuals following a breakdown of a relationship is that seeking the help and advice of a solicitor sets in stone the future of the relationship. It is crucial that individuals understand that solicitors are not there to escalate the matter but will evaluate the situation and advise on the best course of action to take.

A solicitor can therefore simplify the matter and otherwise complicated circumstances and tailor there advice around the facts.

This article was written by Luke Stephens, Taynton Solicitors

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to Taynton Solicitors directly.

Published on 30th July 2019
(Last updated 13th November 2019)

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