A new way forward – Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25th June 2020 thereby becoming law. The Bill overhauls the way, in England & Wales, married couples obtain a divorce or judicial separation and civil partners separate or dissolve their partnership.

Until now the law covering divorce and separation was contained in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which set out married couples could only divorce on the sole ground the marriage had broken down irretrievably and that the breakdown was a result of one of five facts (three relating to conduct; adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the two relating to period of separation, two years with both parties consent or five years without).

The legal process had to be initiated by one party (Petitioner) and the other party (Respondent) was required to confirm to the Court whether they agreed to the divorce or not. If the Respondent disagreed with the divorce, both parties would have to appear before a Judge in person. If the Respondent agreed to the divorce and a Judge was satisfied one of the five facts has been proven on paper, the Court could grant a Decree Nisi. This was only a conditional order and the marriage could not be brought to a formal legal end (Decree Absolute) until six weeks from the granting of the Decree Nisi had passed. Decrees of judicial separation and separation or dissolution of Civil Partnership were granted on a similar basis.

The measures introduced by the Divorce, Separation and Dissolution Act include:

  • Replacing the requirement to provide evidence of one of the five facts, with a Statement of Irretrievable Breakdown
  • Allowing parties to make a joint application for divorce
  • Removing the possibility of contesting the application to divorce but allowing a party to challenge on another basis such as jurisdiction or procedural compliance.
  • Introducing new terminology including replacing ‘Petitioner’ with ‘Applicant’, ‘Decree Nisi’ with ‘Conditional Order’ and ‘Decree Absolute’ with ‘Final Order’
  • Introducing a new minimum timetable of six months (26weeks). Both parties must confirm they agree to the application continuing, but cannot give this confirmation until 20 weeks have passed from the start of the divorce process. A further six weeks must then pass from the granting of the Conditional Order before the Final Order is granted.

Family lawyers have long campaigned for the changes this Act introduces and we all welcome a way, finally, for separating couples to bring a legal end to their relationship without placing blame, thus helping to avoid further possible acrimony.

Philcox Gray is able to advise and assist parties seeking to divorce, including assisting with the process itself, applying for financial arrangements and/or making arrangements for children.
We can be contacted on 0203 207 204 or at postroom@philcoxgray.co.uk

Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21

The Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 has moved through the Second Reading stage in Parliament, have been debated by MPs on 28th April. The Bill has now moved on to the Committee Stage, where the Committee will look through the Bill line by line and report to Parliament by 25th June 2020. You can follow the progress of the Bill here.

The Bill as currently drafted intends, amongst other things, to set out a statutory definition of domestic abuse not confined to violent or sexual abuse and to address the way domestic violence is dealt with in Family Court, including special measures to protect victims and prohibiting cross-examination in person in certain circumstances. A specialist panel has also been established to examine how effectively family courts respond to allegations of domestic abuse. It is expected the Panel’s recommendations along with the Government’s response will be published shortly.

The Bill is welcomed by professionals working in the family courts and all of us at Philcox Gray.

Philcox Gray remains able to help victims of domestic abuse during the Covid-19 pandemic. Family Courts continue to operate and we continue to be able to obtain urgent Court Orders to protect victims of abuse and remove perpetrators from the family home.

We can be contacted at all times via directors@philcoxgray.co.uk or on 07940 731095. The police continue to respond to incidents of domestic abuse and anyone in immediate danger should call 999.

We are in the news!

With Philcox Gray having served the communities of south London for over 100 years, we have been featured in The Voice Newspaper. Since joining forces last year, Philcox Gray and Hornby & Levy Solicitors have gone from strength to strength, providing a high quality of service for all with offices in both Brixton and Elephant and Castle.

Despite the introduction of LASPO 2012, a piece of legislation which has significantly reduced the availability of legal aid, we remain committed to provide a quality service to all of our clients.

If you need any advice with a family matter, please contact us to see if we can assist you on 020 3207 2074.

Domestic Abuse Bill

It is estimated that around 2 million adults experience domestic abuse each year. On 17 July 2019, the government introduced the domestic abuse bill into Parliament.  The legislation is aimed at supporting victims of domestic abuse and their families and pursuing offenders. It has been revealed the estimated cost for domestic abuse victims in 2017 in England and Wales was £66 billion. The proposed legislation will:

  • Introduce the first statutory government definition of “domestic abuse”. This will specifically include economic abuse, controlling and manipulative non-physical abuse
  • Establish a Domestic Abuse Commission to drive the response to domestic abuse issues
  • Introduce new measures of protection for victims and to place restrictions on the actions of offenders
  • Provide automatic eligibility for special court measures to support victims giving evidence in criminal courts
  • Hopefully transform the response to domestic abuse in the justice system

The bill has been described by government and charities that this is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to making sure a step is made in the right direction. A charity supporting women who have experienced domestic abuse, has highlighted the importance of ensuring survivors of abuse are able to escape to safety and access support they need.

On 2 October 2019, the bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons and will now be examined in detail by a committee of MPs. All of us here at Philcox Gray are hopeful that the bill will brings changes to legislation which are required.

If you would like more information or advice about the issues raised in this article, or any aspect of family law please contact our us on 020 3207 2074, by email at postroom@philcoxgray.co.uk

The contents of this article is general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published.  Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should obtain independent expert advice from qualified solicitors such as those within our firm.

London Legal Walk 2023

The London Legal Walk is taking place on Tuesday 13 June 2023 and all our walkers are signed up to take part!

Philcox Gray Solicitors will join over 14,000 walkers from different legal practices across London who will be doing a 10k sponsored walk to raise funds for legal advice charities in and around London.

For 19 years the London Legal Walk has been bringing together the legal community to support free legal advice services on the frontline.

As the cost of living rises, the need for free legal help with debt, benefits, housing, asylum and domestic violence is now greater than ever.

In the words of Baroness Hale, Former President of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, these charities ‘provide a lifeline to people who do not have the resources to pay for legal advice but whose circumstances can be greatly improved by the intervention of a lawyer.’

You can sponsor our 2023 walkers by visiting our Philcox Gray Fundraising Page

Children’s Rights and Counter-Terrorism

Philcox Gray family paralegal Heidi Burrows, has recently written an article for her University’s Law Blog in which she summarises her Masters thesis in International Children’s Rights.

In both pieces Heidi comments on how children charged or convicted of terrorism related offences are treated and proposes that policy makers reconsider their counter-terrorism efforts to ensure measures do not only comply with children’s rights, but positively reinforce the rights of the child.

Heidi’s blog can be found here Leiden University’s Law Blog

Sheila Donn

Philcox Gray are very sad to announce that Sheila Donn passed away on 27th June 2018.  All of those who knew her personally and / or professionally will have known what an amazing person she was and how great a loss this is.  We are grateful already for the many truly heartfelt messages of love and support we have received.

London Legal Walk 2018

The Philcox Gray team joined over 13,000 legal professionals on 21st May 2018 to take part in this year’s London Legal Walk. The 10km walk took us through St James’ Park, past Buckingham Palace and around the Serpentine before bringing us back along The Strand. By the time the walk started over £400,000 pounds had been raised already by participants.

All the funds raised go towards the provision of free legal services in and around London and the South East. The charities providing these services are invaluable to those most in need such as people who suffer disability or illness and their carers, women and children trafficked to the UK and those who are unfairly dismissed or discriminated against at work. The money raised from the London Legal Walk will help these charities to continue to provide life changing advice and representation to those who have been unable to access legal help.

LLW Website (3)

Woman’s Hour – discussing Family law and a new BBC drama

The new BBC TV drama The Split brings to the screen a portrayal of family law and family lawyers.

Philcox Gray Director Lucy Verity gives her view on the drama in this week’s Woman’s Hour, discussing the conduct of the lawyers portrayed on screen and how this differs to the work and conduct of professional family lawyers on a day to day basis. The episode can be found at

Lucy’s discussion on the TV drama begins 33 minutes into the programme. The panel also discusses a variety of other topics including a new classical music piece, Cancer research and the affect of losing your mother at any age.


Homelessness – Changes to eligibility for Legal Aid

Tenants living in England threatened with homelessness within 56 days are now within scope for legal advice following the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017.

Until recently, under the Housing Act 1996, tenants in England had to wait until they were faced with homelessness within 28 before they were considered ‘threatened’ with homelessness. With the implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, which is in effect from 4th April 2018, English law has now been updated and provides for the same definition of ‘threatened with homelessness’ as Wales, that a tenant is facing homelessness within 56 days.

People threatened with homelessness are entitled (following means and merits testing) to advice on entitlement and suitability of accommodation, as well as assistance with making an application and any appeal that may follow.

If you need any advice with a Housing matter, please contact us to see if we can assist you.