Divorce law set to end the 'blame game'
Divorce may no longer be a War of the Roses but couples must still ensure a thorough parting process, writes Partner Lisa Boileau
How many of you remember the award-winning film The War of the Roses, which followed a wealthy couple whose marriage spirals into an outrageous and bitter divorce battle?
Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner played the roles perfectly – but as we all know, the reality is far removed from such film fiction. And fortunately, it’s the ‘facts’ that are being considered in 2020, as England and Wales take their final step towards divorce reform.
Ending the blame game
The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill, which removes fault from the divorce process, is close to receiving royal assent after passing through the remaining stages of its parliamentary journey this week. While not cutting the time it takes to divorce, this legislation prevents couples having to play the blame game. It’s kinder, not quicker.
Presently it’s necessary to apportion blame on one side or the other. Either that or a couple must wait until they’ve separated for more than two years and have the other party’s consent to start the divorce. If one side doesn’t agree, that wait extends to five years in the absence of other grounds to divorce.
The new legislation means divorcing couples will only be required to make a statement saying that their marriage has broken down. This is already law in Scotland, where its introduction hasn’t seen a marked increase in divorce (as some foretold). Instead, it’s allowed for an amicable parting within a reasonable time frame.
Complex issues remain
While this change is widely welcomed, there’s one thing that should remain steadfast, and that’s the need for people to remember the complex issues that must be considered as they move through the process.
This has been highlighted by the Law Society, as it calls for the legislation to be amended to ensure ex-spouses are not left financially vulnerable as a result of pension orders. Its president wants to see an amendment to the bill so that a final divorce order cannot be granted until the pension sharing order has taken effect.
Whether his words are acted upon remains to be seen. But they do show how vital it is for people to understand that the divorce itself is only a small part of the proceedings. It’s the financial future of both parties that can often be the more important: who gets what, for or from who, when and how much?
And this is where expert advice makes the difference. For example, the division of a pension pot and the financial implications of splitting any assets often need careful negotiation. Without that there can be serious consequences and unfairness.
For more information, please contact Lisa Boileau on 01522 515 946 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org