Family Law Act 1996

Publication Date:January 01, 1996


Family Law Act 1996

1996 Chapter 27

An Act to make provision with respect to: divorce and separation legal aid in connection with mediation in disputes relating to family matters proceedings in cases where marriages have broken down rights of occupation of certain domestic premises prevention of molestation the inclusion in certain orders under the Children Act 1989 of provisions about the occupation of a dwelling-house the transfer of tenancies between spouses and persons who have lived together as husband and wife and for connected purposes.

[4th July 1996]

B e 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:—

I Principles of Parts II and III

Part I

Principles of Parts II and III

S-1 The general principles underlying Parts II and III.

1 The general principles underlying Parts II and III.

.The court and any person, in exercising functions under or in consequence of Parts II and III, shall have regard to the following general principles—

(a) that the institution of marriage is to be supported

(b) that the parties to a marriage which may have broken down are to be encouraged to take all practicable steps, whether by marriage counselling or otherwise, to save the marriage

(c)that a marriage which has irretrievably broken down and is being brought to an end should be brought to an end—

(i) with minimum distress to the parties and to the children affected

(ii) with questions dealt with in a manner designed to promote as good a continuing relationship between the parties and any children affected as is possible in the circumstances and

(iii) without costs being unreasonably incurred in connection with the procedures to be followed in bringing the marriage to an end and

(d) that any risk to one of the parties to a marriage, and to any children, of violence from the other party should, so far as reasonably practicable, be removed or diminished.

II Divorce and Separation

Part II

Divorce and Separation

Court orders

Court orders

S-2 Divorce and separation.

2 Divorce and separation.

(1) The court may—

(a) by making an order (to be known as a divorce order), dissolve a marriage or

(b) by making an order (to be known as a separation order), provide for the separation of the parties to a marriage.

(2) Any such order comes into force on being made.

(3) A separation order remains in force—

(a) while the marriage continues or

(b) until cancelled by the court on the joint application of the parties.

S-3 Circumstances in which orders are made.

3 Circumstances in which orders are made.

(1) If an application for a divorce order or for a separation order is made to the court under this section by one or both of the parties to a marriage, the court shall make the order applied for if (but only if)—

(a) the marriage has broken down irretrievably

(b) the requirements of section 8 about information meetings are satisfied

(c) the requirements of section 9 about the parties' arrangements for the future are satisfied and

(d) the application has not been withdrawn.

(2) A divorce order may not be made if an order preventing divorce is in force under section 10.

(3) If the court is considering an application for a divorce order and an application for a separation order in respect of the same marriage it shall proceed as if it were considering only the application for a divorce order unless—

(a) an order preventing divorce is in force with respect to the marriage

(b) the court makes an order preventing divorce or

(c) section 7(6) or (13) applies.

S-4 Conversion of separation order into divorce order.

4 Conversion of separation order into divorce order.

(1) A separation order which is made before the second anniversary of the marriage may not be converted into a divorce order under this section until after that anniversary.

(2) A separation order may not be converted into a divorce order under this section at any time while—

(a) an order preventing divorce is in force under section 10 or

(b) subsection (4) applies.

(3) Otherwise, if a separation order is in force and an application for a divorce order—

(a) is made under this section by either or both of the parties to the marriage, and

(b) is not withdrawn

the court shall grant the application once the requirements of section 11 have been satisfied.

(4) Subject to subsection (5), this subsection applies if—

(a) there is a child of the family who is under the age of sixteen when the application under this section is made or

(b) the application under this section is made by one party and the other party applies to the court, before the end of such period as may be prescribed by rules of court, for time for further reflection.

(5) Subsection (4)—

(a) does not apply if, at the time when the application under this section is made, there is an occupation order or a non-molestation order in force in favour of the applicant, or of a child of the family, made against the other party

(b) does not apply if the court is satisfied that delaying the making of a divorce order would be significantly detrimental to the welfare of any child of the family

(c) ceases to apply—

(i) at the end of the period of six months beginning with the end of the period for reflection and consideration by reference to which the separation order was made or

(ii) if earlier, on there ceasing to be any children of the family to whom subsection (4)(a) applied.

Marital breakdown

Marital breakdown

S-5 Marital breakdown.

5 Marital breakdown.

(1) A marriage is to be taken to have broken down irretrievably if (but only if)—

(a) a statement has been made by one (or both) of the parties that the maker of the statement (or each of them) believes that the marriage has broken down

(b) the statement complies with the requirements of section 6

(c) the period for reflection and consideration fixed by section 7 has ended and

(d) the application under section 3 is accompanied by a declaration by the party making the application that—

(i) having reflected on the breakdown, and

(ii) having considered the requirements of this Part as to the parties' arrangements for the future

the applicant believes that the marriage cannot be saved.

(2) The statement and the application under section 3 do not have to be made by the same party.

(3) An application may not be made under section 3 by reference to a particular statement if—

(a) the parties have jointly given notice (in accordance with rules of court) withdrawing the statement or

(b) a period of one year (‘the specified period’) has passed since the end of the period for reflection and consideration.

(4) Any period during which an order preventing divorce is in force is not to count towards the specified period mentioned in subsection (3)(b).

(5) Subsection (6) applies if, before the end of the specified period, the parties jointly give notice to the court that they are attempting reconciliation but require additional time.

(6) The specified period—

(a) stops running on the day on which the notice is received by the court but

(b) resumes running on the day on which either of the parties gives notice to the court that the attempted reconciliation has been unsuccessful.

(7) If the specified period is interrupted by a continuous period of more than 18 months, any application by either of the parties for a divorce order or for a separation order must be by reference to a new statement received by the court at any time after the end of the 18 months.

(8) The Lord Chancellor may by order amend subsection (3)(b) by varying the specified period.

S-6 Statement of marital breakdown.

6 Statement of marital breakdown.

(1) A statement under section 5(1)(a) is to be known as a statement of marital breakdown but in this Part it is generally referred to as‘a statement’.

(2) If a statement is made by one party it must also state that that party—

(a) is aware of the purpose of the period for reflection and consideration as described in section 7 and

(b) wishes to make arrangements for the future.

(3) If a statement is made by both parties it must also state that each of them—

(a) is aware of the purpose of the period for reflection and consideration as described in section 7 and

(b) wishes to make arrangements for the future.

(4) A statement must be given to the court in accordance with the requirements of rules made under section 12.

(5) A statement must also satisfy any other requirements imposed by rules made under that section.

(6) A statement made at a time when the circumstances of the case include any of those mentioned in subsection (7) is ineffective for the purposes of this Part.

(7) The circumstances are—

(a) that a statement has previously been made with respect to the marriage and it is, or will become, possible—

(i) for an application for a divorce order, or

(ii) for an application for a separation order to be made by reference to the previous statement

(b) that such an application has been made in relation to the marriage and has not been withdrawn

(c) that a separation order is in force.

Reflection and consideration

Reflection and...

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