Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill (HC Bill 125)

A

BILL

TO

Make in relation to marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales
provision about divorce, dissolution and separation; and for connected
purposes.

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and
consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present
Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

Divorce and judicial separation

1 Divorce: removal of requirement to establish facts etc

For section 1 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (divorce on breakdown of
marriage) substitute—

1 5Divorce on breakdown of marriage

(1) Subject to section 3, either or both parties to a marriage may apply to
the court for an order (a “divorce order”) which dissolves the marriage
on the ground that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.

(2) An application under subsection (1) must be accompanied by a
10statement by the applicant or applicants that the marriage has broken
down irretrievably.

(3) The court dealing with an application under subsection (1) must—

(a) take the statement to be conclusive evidence that the marriage
has broken down irretrievably, and

(b) 15make a divorce order.

(4) A divorce order—

(a) is, in the first instance, a conditional order, and

(b) may not be made final before the end of the period of 6 weeks
from the making of the conditional order.

(5) 20The court may not make a conditional order unless—

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation BillPage 2

(a) in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application
by one party to the marriage only, that party has confirmed to
the court that they wish the application to continue, or

(b) in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application
5by both parties to the marriage, those parties have confirmed to
the court that they wish the application to continue;

and a party may not give confirmation for the purposes of this
subsection before the end of the period of 20 weeks from the start of
proceedings.

(6) 10The Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument
amend this section so as to shorten or lengthen the period for the
purposes of subsection (4)(b) or (5).

(7) But the Lord Chancellor may not under subsection (6) provide for a
period which would result in the total number of days in the periods
15for the purposes of subsections (4)(b) and (5) (taken together) exceeding
26 weeks.

(8) In a particular case the court dealing with the case may by order
shorten the period that would otherwise be applicable for the purposes
of subsection (4)(b) or (5).

(9) 20A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (6) may
not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and
approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(10) Without prejudice to the generality of section 75 of the Courts Act 2003,
Family Procedure Rules may make provision as to the procedure for an
25application under subsection (1) by both parties to a marriage to
become an application by one party to the marriage only (including
provision for a statement made under subsection (2) in connection with
the application to be treated as made by one party to the marriage
only).”

2 30Judicial separation: removal of factual grounds

(1) Section 17 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (judicial separation) is amended
as follows.

(2) For subsection (1) substitute—

(1) Either or both parties to a marriage may apply to the court for an order
35(a “judicial separation order”) which provides for the separation of the
parties to the marriage.

(1A) An application under subsection (1) must be accompanied by—

(a) if the application is by one party to the marriage only, a
statement by that person that they seek to be judicially
40separated from the other party to the marriage, or

(b) if the application is by both parties to the marriage, a statement
by them that they seek to be judicially separated from one
another.

(1B) The court dealing with an application under subsection (1) must make
45a judicial separation order.”

(3) Omit subsection (2).

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(4) In subsection (3)—

(a) for “judicial separation”, in both places, substitute “a judicial separation
order”;

(b) for “divorce” substitute “a divorce order”.

5Civil partnership: dissolution and separation

3 Dissolution: removal of requirement to establish facts

(1) Section 44 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (dissolution of civil partnership
which has broken down irretrievably) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), for “either civil partner” substitute “either or both civil
10partners”.

(3) After subsection (1) insert—

(1A) An application under subsection (1) must be accompanied by a
statement by the applicant or applicants that the civil partnership has
broken down irretrievably.”

(4) 15Omit subsections (2) and (3).

(5) For subsection (4) substitute—

(4) The court dealing with an application under subsection (1) must—

(a) take the statement to be conclusive evidence that the civil
partnership has broken down irretrievably, and

(b) 20make a dissolution order.”

(6) Omit subsection (5).

(7) At the end insert—

(6) Without prejudice to the generality of section 75 of the Courts Act 2003,
Family Procedure Rules may make provision as to the procedure for an
25application under subsection (1) by both civil partners to become an
application by one civil partner only (including provision for a
statement made under subsection (1A) in connection with the
application to be treated as made by one civil partner only).”

4 Dissolution orders: time limits

(1) 30The Civil Partnership Act 2004 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 37 (powers to make orders and effect of orders), omit subsection (2).

(3) After section 37 insert—

37A Dissolution on ground of breakdown: conditional and final orders

(1) Every dissolution order—

(a) 35is, in the first instance, a conditional order, and

(b) may not be made final before the end of the period of 6 weeks
from the making of the conditional order (the “first prescribed
period”).

(2) The court may not make a conditional order unless—

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(a) in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application
by one civil partner only, that person has confirmed to the court
that they wish the application to continue, or

(b) in the case of an application that is to proceed as an application
5by both civil partners, those persons have confirmed to the
court that they wish the application to continue;

and a person may not give confirmation for the purposes of this
subsection before the end of the period of 20 weeks from the start of
proceedings (the “second prescribed period”).

(3) 10The Lord Chancellor may by order amend this section so as to
substitute—

(a) a different definition of the first prescribed period, or

(b) a different definition of the second prescribed period.

(4) But the Lord Chancellor may not under subsection (3) provide for a
15period which would result in the total number of days in the first and
second prescribed periods (taken together) exceeding 26 weeks.

(5) In a particular case the court dealing with the case may by order
shorten the first prescribed period or the second prescribed period.

(6) The power to make an order under subsection (3) is exercisable by
20statutory instrument.

(7) An instrument containing such an order may not be made unless a draft
of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of
each House of Parliament.”

(4) In section 38 (the period before conditional orders may be made final)—

(a) 25for the heading substitute “Annulment and presumption of death:
conditional and final orders”;

(b) before subsection (1) insert—

(A1) Every nullity or presumption of death order—

(a) is, in the first instance, a conditional order, and

(b) 30may not be made final before the end of the prescribed
period for the purposes of this paragraph.”;

(c) in subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a), for “section
37(2)(b)” substitute “subsection (A1)(b)”;

(d) in subsection (2), for “section 37(2)(b) substitute “subsection (A1)(b)”.

5 35Separation: removal of factual grounds

(1) Section 56 of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 (separation orders) is amended as
follows.

(2) In subsection (1), for the words from “either civil partner” to the end substitute
“either or both civil partners.”

(3) 40After subsection (1) insert—

(1A) An application under subsection (1) must be accompanied by—

(a) if the application is by one civil partner only, a statement by that
person that they seek to be separated from the other civil
partner, or

Divorce, Dissolution and Separation BillPage 5

(b) if the application is by both civil partners, a statement by them
that they seek to be separated from one another.”

(4) Omit subsection (2).

(5) For subsection (3) substitute—

(3) 5The court dealing with an application under subsection (1) must make
a separation order.”

(6) Omit subsection (4).

General

6 Minor and consequential amendments

(1) 10The Schedule to this Act contains minor and consequential amendments.

(2) The Lord Chancellor may by regulations made by statutory instrument make
provision that is consequential on any provision made by this Act.

(3) Regulations under this section—

(a) may include transitional or saving provision;

(b) 15may amend, repeal or revoke any provision of or made under primary
legislation.

(4) The provision referred to in subsection (3)(b) does not include a provision of
legislation passed or made after the end of the session of Parliament in which
this Act is passed.

(5) 20A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section that amend,
repeal or revoke primary legislation may not be made unless a draft of the
instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of
Parliament.

(6) Any other statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is
25subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of
Parliament.

(7) In this section “primary legislation” means—

(a) an Act;

(b) a Measure or Act of the National Assembly for Wales;

(c) 30an Act of the Scottish Parliament;

(d) Northern Ireland legislation.

7 Extent

(1) This Act extends to England and Wales only, subject to subsections (2) and (3).

(2) Sections 6 to 9 also extend to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

(3) 35An amendment or repeal made by the Schedule has the same extent as the
provision amended or repealed.

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8 Commencement and transitional provision

(1) The provisions of this Act come into force on the commencement date, subject
to subsections (2) and (3).

(2) Sections 6(2) to (7), 7 and 9 and this section come into force on the day on which
5this Act is passed.

(3) The following sections come into force on the day on which this Act is passed
so far as they confer power to make provision by Family Procedure Rules—

(a) section 1;

(b) section 3.

(4) 10Section 1 and paragraphs 2 to 11, 17, 19, 20(3), 26, 28, 30, 31 and 33(a) of the
Schedule do not apply in relation to proceedings for divorce that started before
the commencement date.

(5) Section 2 and paragraphs 16, 19, 20(3), 26, 28, 30, 31, 33(a) and 51(3) of the
Schedule do not apply in relation to proceedings for judicial separation that
15started before the commencement date.

(6) Paragraphs 12 to 14, 19, 20(3), 26, 28, 30, 33(b), 51(6) and 56 of the Schedule do
not apply in relation to proceedings for nullity of marriage that started before
the commencement date.

(7) Sections 3 to 5 and Part 2 of the Schedule do not apply to proceedings for a
20dissolution, nullity, presumption of death or separation order that started
before the commencement date.

(8) In this section “the commencement date” means such day as the Lord
Chancellor may by regulations appoint.

(9) Different days may be appointed for different purposes.

(10) 25Regulations under this section are to be made by statutory instrument.

9 Short title

(1) This Act may be cited as the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020.


(2)

(2) Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public
30funds, or vary the amount or incidence of or otherwise alter any such charge
in any manner, or affect the assessment, levying, administration or
application of any money raised by any such charge.

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Section 6

Schedule Minor and consequential amendments

Part 1 Amendments to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973

1 5The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 is amended as follows.

2 Omit section 2 (supplemental provisions as to facts raising presumption of
breakdown).

3 In section 3 (bar on petitions for divorce within one year of marriage)—

(a) in the heading, for “petitions for divorce” substitute “applying for a
10divorce order”;

(b) in subsection (1), for “No petition for divorce shall be presented to
the court” substitute “An application for a divorce order may not be
made”;

(c) omit subsection (2).

4 15Omit section 4 (divorce not precluded by previous judicial separation).

5 Omit section 5 (refusal of decree in five year separation cases on grounds of
grave hardship to respondent).

6 In section 6 (attempts at reconciliation of parties to marriage)—

(a) in subsection (1), for the words from “a petitioner” to “him”
20substitute “an applicant for a divorce order to certify whether the
representative has discussed with the applicant the possibility of
reconciliation and given the applicant”;

(b) in subsection (2), for “divorce” substitute “a divorce order”.

7 In section 7 (consideration by the court of certain agreements or
25arrangements)—

(a) for “either before or after the presentation of a petition for divorce,”
substitute “when proceedings for a divorce order are contemplated
or have begun,”;

(b) for the words from “proceedings” to “have begun,” substitute
30“proceedings,”.

8 In section 8 (intervention of Queen’s Proctor)—

(a) in subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a), for “a petition
for divorce” substitute “an application for a divorce order”;

(b) in subsection (1)(b), for “decree nisi is made absolute” substitute
35“divorce order is made final”;

(c) in subsection (2), for “decree nisi in any proceedings for divorce,”
substitute “conditional order in any proceedings for a divorce
order,”.

9 In section 9 (proceedings after decree nisi: general powers of court)—

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(a) in the heading, for “after decree nisi” substitute “before divorce order
has been made final”;

(b) in subsection (1), in the words before paragraph (a)—

(i) for “decree of divorce has been granted but not made
5absolute” substitute “divorce order has been made but not
made final”;

(ii) for “decree should not be made absolute” substitute “order
should not be made final”;

(c) in subsection (1)(a), for “section 1(5)” substitute “section 1(4)” and for
10“decree absolute” substitute “order final”;

(d) in subsection (1)(b), for “decree” substitute “order”;

(e) in subsection (2)—

(i) for the words from the beginning to the second “granted,”
substitute “Where a divorce order has been made on an
15application by one party to a marriage and that party has not
applied for the order to be made final,”;

(ii) for “the party against whom it was granted” substitute “the
other party to the marriage”.

10 In section 10 (proceedings after decree nisi: special protection for respondent
20in separation cases)—

(a) for the heading substitute “Proceedings before divorce order made
final: special protection for respondent”;

(b) omit subsection (1);

(c) for subsections (2) and (3) substitute—

(2) 25The following provisions of this section apply where—

(a) on an application for a divorce order a conditional
order has been made and—

(i) the conditional order is in favour of one party
to a marriage, or

(ii) 30the conditional order is in favour of both
parties to a marriage but one of the parties has
since withdrawn from the application, and

(b) the respondent has applied to the court for
consideration under subsection (3) of their financial
35position after the divorce.

(3) Subject to subsection (4), the court hearing an application by
the respondent under subsection (2) must not make the
divorce order final unless it is satisfied—

(a) that the applicant should not be required to make any
40financial provision for the respondent, or

(b) that the financial provision made by the applicant for
the respondent is reasonable and fair or the best that
can be made in the circumstances.

(3A) In making a determination under subsection (3) the court
45must consider all the circumstances including—

(a) the age, health, conduct, earning capacity, financial
resources and financial obligations of each of the
parties to the marriage, and

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(b) the financial position of the respondent as, having
regard to the divorce, it is likely to be after the death
of the applicant should that person die first.”;

(d) in subsection (4)—

(i) 5in the words before paragraph (a), for “decree absolute”
substitute “divorce order final”;

(ii) in paragraph (a), for “decree should be made absolute”
substitute “order should be made final”;

(iii) in paragraph (b), for “petitioner that he will make such
10financial provision” substitute “applicant that they will make
such financial provision”.

11 In section 10A (proceedings after decree nisi: religious marriage)—

(a) in the heading, for “after decree nisi” substitute “before divorce order
has been made final”;

(b) 15in subsection (1)—

(i) for “decree of divorce has been granted” substitute “divorce
order has been made”;

(ii) for “absolute” substitute “final”;

(c) in subsection (2)—

(i) 20for “decree of divorce” substitute “divorce order”;

(ii) for “absolute” substitute “final”;

(d) in subsection (5), for “decree of divorce” substitute “divorce order”.

12 After section 12A insert—

12B The period before nullity of marriage orders may be made final

(1) 25An order that annuls a marriage which is void or voidable (a “nullity
of marriage order”)—

(a) is, in the first instance, a conditional order, and

(b) may not be made final before the end of the period of 6 weeks
from the making of the conditional order.

(2) 30The Lord Chancellor may by order made by statutory instrument
amend this section so as to shorten or lengthen the period for the
purposes of subsection (1)(b).

(3) But the Lord Chancellor may not under subsection (2) lengthen the
period so that it exceeds 6 months.

(4) 35In a particular case the court dealing with the case may by order
shorten the period that would otherwise be applicable for the
purposes of subsection (1)(b).

(5) A statutory instrument containing an order under subsection (2) is
subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of
40Parliament.”

13 (1) Section 13 (bars to relief where marriage is voidable) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1)—

(a) in the words before paragraph (a), for the words from “not” to
“nullity” substitute “not make a nullity of marriage order”;

(b) 45in paragraph (a), for “petitioner” substitute “applicant”;

(c) in paragraph (b), for “grant the decree” substitute “make the order”.