A proposal to amend the law to make it easier for estranged partners to separate by mutual consent to avoid messy and protracted divorce proceedings is before the National Assembly.
The Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2023 aims to provide a simpler and more economical way for couples to amicably settle the terms of their divorce.
This proposed change to the Marriage Act 2014 is in response to growing concerns about the difficult and often emotionally draining process of divorce. Couples wishing to separate often face complex legal procedures, lengthy timelines and significant financial costs.
Under the provisions of the Bill, that has been sponsored by Suna West MP Francis Masara, spouses who agree to end their marriage will be able to opt for a more streamlined divorce process. This approach is expected to reduce emotional distress, minimise potential conflict and ultimately reduce the burden on the legal system. In addition, the legislation is expected to expedite the division of marital assets, the determination of alimony, the establishment of child custody arrangements and other key aspects of the separation process.
“Because of the length of time it takes to finalise divorce proceedings, spouses whose marriages have broken down are forced to remain in unhappy marriages when it may not be in their best interests to do so. This Bill seeks to remedy such situations by allowing spouses to agree to divorce by mutual consent. This will enable spouses to separate in an amicable, simple and cost-effective way in terms of time and resources,” the Bill says.
It contains a crucial safeguard to ensure that mutual consent is obtained without any form of coercion, fraud or undue influence.
“The court may, on the application of either party, set aside a decree of divorce granted on the ground that the consent was obtained by duress, fraud or undue influence. The innocent party shall be entitled to damages if the court sets aside a decree of divorce under this subsection,” the bill states.
Marriages dissolved in accordance with the new provisions will be officially recognised as divorced from the exact date on which the court issues the decree absolute. This notable change aims to streamline the legal process surrounding the dissolution of marriages, providing greater clarity and certainty to the parties involved.
In addition, the Rules Committee, which operates under the Civil Procedure Act, has been empowered to formulate rules governing various aspects of practice and procedure relating to divorce. This is expected to improve the efficiency and fairness of the dissolution process.
“Couples whose marriages are dissolved in accordance with the guidelines set out in section (6) will now be deemed to be legally divorced from the date on which the court issues the decree absolute. In addition, the Rules Committee, established under the provisions of the Civil Procedure Act, is empowered to make rules governing all aspects of practice and procedure within the scope of this specific section.”