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Ending the blame game – historic change to divorce law will happen

The government is preparing to implement the biggest shake-up of divorce law in half a century with ‘no fault’ divorce a real possibility at last.

The change, aimed at enabling couples to split up faster and with less acrimony and blame, will be introduced – says Justice Secretary David Gauke – as soon as parliament, currently rather preoccupied with Brexit, has time to consider the legislation.

Hostility and conflict

Mr Gauke commented: “Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.

“While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples. So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”

Current law

Currently, couples in England and Wales who want to bring their marriage to an end must demonstrate that their relationship has irretrievably broken down by citing unreasonable behaviour, adultery, desertion, separation of at least two years if both parties agree to the divorce and five years if one partner doesn’t.

Most of these reasons mean that the spouse asking for the divorce must blame the other for the breakdown of their marriage.

Proposed changes

The key amendments include:

  • Replacing the need to provide evidence of adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour with a simple statement of irretrievable breakdown;
  • Removing the requirement to be separated for at least two years – although parties must wait a minimum of six months from petition stage to decree absolute to ‘reflect’ and have the ‘opportunity to turn back’;
  • Introducing the option for a joint application for divorce;
  • Removing the power of a defendant to resist a divorce – this follows the controversial case of Tini Owens who was told by the Supreme Court to stay in what she describes as ‘a loveless and desperately unhappy marriage’ because her husband won’t agree to a divorce.

The changes have been welcomed by Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. Wards Solicitors’ Family Law and Divorce team lawyers are all Resolution members and also back the government’s plans.

See what else we have written on this subject:

Ending the blame game when it comes to divorce

New calls for ‘no fault divorce’ as the effect of current law on separating couples comes under scrutiny once again

No fault divorce – the debate rumbles on

For legal help and advice about divorce, please contact Wards Solicitors’ Family Law and Divorce team by phone or by calling into one of our 11 local offices.

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