- Family law: what changes are expected in 2021?
Family law: what changes are expected in 2021?
Family law: what changes are expected in 2021?16th February 2021 - Published by Kuits Family team
Changes in divorce law
After years of campaigning from legal professionals, 2021 finally becomes the year in which “no-fault” divorce is introduced in England & Wales. This means that spouses will no longer need to wait two years to divorce without one spouse having to point blame at the other, either in the form of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, as the reason for the breakdown of the marriage. The new law is expected to take effect in the autumn.
Following the end of the transitional period on 31 December 2021, the rules relating to jurisdiction, forum and recognition on divorce have changed. International divorce in the EU prior to Brexit often involved a “forum race” with the spouse first to issue within the EU seizing jurisdiction. Many EU based divorces ended up in England & Wales as a result, due to the perceived generosity of the English courts. We now have a test of “closest connection” which takes away the simplicity in deciding jurisdiction, though may be beneficial where there is a dispute over where the divorce should take place. There is now less certainty as to whether a UK divorce will be recognised in EU countries which are not parties to The Hague Convention and this is something of a developing topic. The Hague Convention was established to protect children of international abduction by encouraging the return of the child to their country of habitual residence.
Out of court resolutions and increase in nuptial agreements
With the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 on many businesses and industries, it is fair to say that many of us are becoming more cost conscious and risk averse in 2021. Many clients are choosing to keep their disputes out of court by engaging either in alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, or by engaging in negotiations via solicitors with round table meetings. We are also seeing an increase in parties wishing to address how they would deal with their finances on divorce in advance, with the aid of a nuptial agreement. This is a useful tool to alleviate stress and pressure both now, the fear of the “unknown”, and in the future should you separate. With the added potential for enormous costs savings, nuptial agreements are set to be on the rise.
Video hearings to continue into 2021
The family court’s remote hearing technology has vastly improved over the last 11 months with the majority of hearings now taking place via video link (or via a hybrid set-up with some parties in court and others attending remotely) with a general consensus that remote hearings provide outcomes which are fair and just. There has certainly been a noticeable improvement in parties working to ensure that hearings commence at the listed time and there are other benefits such as saving the time and costs of travel. The Court has acknowledged that face-to-face hearings should continue in complex cases particularly where extensive evidence is to be given, but in other more straightforward cases, it looks likely that remote hearings are here to stay.