New Divorce Law


The Family Law Act 1996 provides new procedures for divorce, but implementation of the Act has been delayed following research into pilot schemes carried out in some areas. The following is a brief outline of the proposed changes, but it should be noted that these do not currently apply (as at January 2000)

The new law introduces Information Meetings for those contemplating divorce, and attendance will be compulsory where one spouse opposes the divorce or there are disputes over children or finance. A period of three months must elapse after the Information Meeting before a Statement of Marital Breakdown can be filed with the court and proceedings commence.

There then follows a Period for Reflection and Consideration. This begins 14 days after the Statement of Marital Breakdown is received by the court and ends 9 months after that. Exceptions to this rule are:

  • Where there are children under 16 (extended to 15 months)
  • Where a six month extension is granted to either spouse
  • Where there is an attempt at reconciliation by the spouses

If reconciliation is attempted the Period for Reflection can be put off for a maximum of 18 months. After that the process must start again if the divorce is to continue.

After the Period for Reflection, either spouse can apply for a Divorce Order or a Separation Order, which will normally be granted if financial matters have been settled and less than a year has elapsed since the Period for Reflection ended.

Read the full text of the Family Law Act 1996 for more information.


Updated 29-02-2000