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Ending the blame game when it comes to divorce

The prospect of no-fault divorce has come one step nearer with news that the government has launched a public consultation on changes to the current system – a move welcomed by Wards Solicitors.

Blame, bitterness, accusation and confrontation have become the hallmark of many divorces in England and Wales with one spouse forced to prove the other is at fault for the irretrievable breakdown of their relationship through adultery, desertion or unreasonable behaviour.

The only alternative, if both sides agree, is to part two years after separation or five years after separation if the couple can’t agree or there is no evidence of fault, as in the controversial case of Tini Owens, told by the Supreme Court earlier this year to remain in a loveless marriage.

Bring law into the 21st century

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “Making couples attribute fault in order to end their marriage can escalate the differences between them in an already charged situation.

“So we welcome the news the Ministry of Justice is to consult on proposals to update the divorce law. It’s time to bring this law into the 21st century to reflect the society we live in and we look forward to working with government to ensure the reforms are fit for purpose.”

Landmark moment

Nigel Shepherd, former Chair of the family law group Resolution which has long campaigned for no fault divorce, also applauded the development.

“This is a landmark moment for divorce law in England and Wales,” He said. “For too long, too many divorcing couples have been forced to play the ‘blame game’, needlessly having to assign fault in order to satisfy an outdated legal requirement. If these proposals make their way into law, that will no longer be necessary.

“We’re pleased the government has listened to us, and look forward to playing a key role in working with Ministers and officials on the detail of these proposed changes. With MPs from all main parties voicing their support for change, I hope that we will soon see reform that will help thousands of couples and parents avoid unnecessary conflict should their marriage or civil partnership sadly come to an end.

“It is now vital that the many individuals and organisations that have supported our call for change in recent months respond to the government consultation and get firmly behind this reform.”

So what next?

The proposals would bring in a new notification process where one partner, or possibly both partners, could let the court know of their plans to divorce.

Other significant changes could include:

  • Making the ‘irretrievable breakdown of a marriage’ the only ground for divorce;
  • Removing the need to live apart beforehand;
  • Shelving the requirement to provide evidence of a partner’s misconduct ie pinpointing fault and apportioning blame;
  • Getting rid of the opportunity for the other spouse to contest the divorce application.

The consultation is open until 10 December 2018. Click here if you would like to give your views by taking part in an online survey.

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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