It is therefore timely to consider the key differences between the two jurisdictions.
First, in Bermuda couples are generally prevented from issuing divorce proceedings within the first three years of marriage. In contrast, divorce is available in England and Wales after only one year.
The practical effect of this time bar is significant. Most obviously it prevents either party from entering into a marriage with any new partner whilst the first marriage continues. For a couple separating shortly after their marriage, this could be a significant period to wait.
More importantly, the legal rights which flow from a marriage continue in full force during this time. For example, if one of the parties passed away during this period without a will, the surviving spouse would be responsible for managing the estate and entitled to inherit as a result of the marriage. A new partner would have no such rights.
In addition, the court is generally unable to exercise its powers in relation to the parties’ property and finances during this period. This can be very distressing where parties are unable to agree on significant matters such as who should keep their home.
It seems likely that the justification for the rule was to prevent parties divorcing too quickly rather than working on their marriage. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this waiting period is ever a factor in a couples’ decision to separate.
Second, England and Wales are now moving towards no-fault divorces.
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Changes to Divorce Rules Highlight Differences Between England and Bermuda
This article was first published in The Royal Gazette.