Two Of The Biggest Changes In Family Law For 50 Years

There are major changes coming to the world of family law: The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 and the Domestic Abuse Act 2021.

Divorce Law changes: The Blame Game Ends

From April 2022 fault-based divorce will end. All that will need to be done to start a divorce is for one or both parties to tell the Court the marriage has irretrievably broken down. There will be no blame attached to either party. The opportunity to defend a divorce has been abolished and once a statement has been filed at Court the divorce proceeds in two steps:

  1. the making of a conditional divorce order by the Court;
  2. the making of a final divorce order.

The Courts insist that a minimum of 20 weeks elapses from the start of proceedings and the making of the conditional divorce order. The final order will not be made until a further 6 weeks have elapsed.

A divorce will take a minimum of 6 months.

Geldards welcome the divorce reform which, Claire Dean, a Partner at Geldards, hopes will reduce conflict and animosity in families on separation. Claire Dean hopes that this, in turn, will help parties sort out the arrangements for children and finances with less hostility and thus less emotional and financial cost.

Victims Of Domestic Abuse To Receive More Protection Than Ever Before

The Domestic Abuse Act 2021 has already been described as a “landmark piece of legislation”. The dates for enaction of all the provisions have not yet been agreed but the new act will bring in a raft of needed protections for victims of domestic abuse.

The changes will include:

  • A new definition of domestic abuse is on the horizon to include coercive and controlling behaviour, and economic abuse as well as psychological, emotional or any other abuse.
  • New domestic abuse protection notices can be given by the Police and domestic abuse protection orders can be made by the Courts enforcing perpetrators to take the steps to change their behaviour. The Court can require perpetrators to submit to electronic tagging.
  • Alleged abusers shall no longer be able to directly cross examine their victims in the Family and Civil Courts, protective screens and giving evidence via video link will also help prevent intimidation.

Claire Dean comments that this legislation is so very badly needed and will help victims of domestic abuse be better protected both inside and outside of the court system.

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