29 June 2020
Commentary by Simon Beccle, Partner in the Family Department and Solicitor for Tini Owens, on the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020
On 25 June 2020 the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill passed the remaining procedural stages in Parliament and received the Royal Assent to become the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.
The new Act is designed to bring divorce law into the 21st Century by introducing no-fault or no-conduct divorce as is common in many countries throughout the world. The Act is designed to avoid one spouse having to blame the other spouse for the breakdown of the marriage, which so often has a negative effect at the outset of proceedings and which so often damages efforts to resolve issues relating to finances and children.
The catalyst for the reform of the divorce law was the Judgment of the Supreme Court in the firm’s case of Tini Owens v Hugh John Owens  UKSC41 which highlighted the shortcomings in the current law - the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 - which has been in place for approaching 50 years. In Owens, notwithstanding the fact that Mrs Owens had alleged 27 allegations of Mr Owens’ behaviour towards her which she felt made it unreasonable to expect her to live with him, the Supreme Court decided that she was not entitled to a divorce. This Judgment resulted in outcry, both nationally and internationally, such that it then became a priority of the Government to update the divorce law.
Following the Judgment in Owens, a public consultation about modernising the divorce law took place which received widespread backing from the responses received. The Bill was first introduced in Parliament in June 2019 and was brought before Parliament again following the December 2019 General Election. It received overwhelming cross-party support, at all stages, on its passage through Parliament.
No date has yet been fixed for the new Act to come into force but the Government have indicated that it is unlikely to be before the Autumn of 2021. New Court forms need to be designed and changes to the Court, online and paper processes need to be updated before the new Act may be implemented.
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This publication is not intended to provide a comprehensive statement of the law and does not constitute legal advice and should not be considered as such. It is intended to highlight some issues current at the date of its preparation. Specific advice should always be taken in order to take account of individual circumstances and no person reading this article is regarded as a client of this firm in respect of any of its contents.
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