Divorce Law in England and Wales is to be overhauled so that couples will no longer have to apportion blame for the breakdown of their marriage or else wait for at least two years of separation to take place before they can divorce.
Currently, the set grounds for divorce under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 require the applicant to prove their partner is at fault through adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, or, if both agree, they can part after two years of separation. Divorce may also be granted if the couple have lived apart for five years when consent or evidence of fault is absent.
The hope is that the reforms will allow couples to both split faster and with less animosity. The changes to existing divorce law would establish a minimum six month timeframe for couples to ‘reflect’ on their decision. In the future those seeking a divorce will only have to state that their marriage has broken down irretrievably as, with the ability to contest a divorce abolished, one partner will no longer be able to refuse a divorce if the other partner wants one.
Justice Secretary, David Gauke, who announced the proposed changes, said that they would help end the ‘blame game’.
“Frankly, we are not going to keep marriages together by having a divorce process that just makes it more acrimonious [and] tries to apportion blame in such a way that the couple are likely to have a weaker, poorer relationship subsequently that they would otherwise do.” He told BBC News.
Gauke added that the new law will be introduced “when parliamentary time allows.”
This announcement comes in the wake of the heavily publicised Owens v Owens case in which Tini Owens’ appeal for divorce was rejected by the Supreme Court after her husband refused to agree to split.
Ms Owens, 68, wants to divorce her husband of 40 years on the grounds that she is unhappy in the marriage, however following her husband Hugh Owens’ refusal to agree to a divorce and the Supreme Court’s rejection of her appeal, Ms Owens must remain married until 2020.
The introduction of a no-fault system would prevent others from going through a similar ordeal, allowing couples to maintain a cordial relationship following proceedings, something that is of particular importance where children are involved and parents will need a positive relationship in order to successfully co-parent.
Removing the blame element of a divorce should create a less hostile environment for families going through proceedings and ultimately reduce the hardship children have to endure when their parents split.
Chief executive of the charity Relate, Aidan Jones said of the matter:
“[Animosity between separating parents] can cause difficulty for the children…so anything we can do to reduce that is, I think, incredibly important.”
Although there is no set date yet for the changes to be implemented, the introduction of a no-fault system is nonetheless hugely significant, representing the biggest change in divorce law in 50 years.
Duncan Lewis Family Solicitors
At Duncan Lewis Solicitors, our team of expert family lawyers have extensive experience handling divorce matters and understand the importance of maintaining good familial relations where children are involved.
Adeeba Naseem, Director of Family and Childcare at Duncan Lewis Solicitors, regularly deals with separation, divorce and financial proceedings (both domestic and international), including pre-nuptial and post nuptial agreements, and rare cases involving the Queens Proctor. She also specialises in handling international and domestic family law proceedings at the High Court.
Contact Adeeba on 079 2007 7039 or at email@example.com.
Our family and childcare teams are specialists in all aspects of family and private/public children law matters from offices across London and throughout the UK. Recognised by The Legal 500 2019, the team is significantly experienced in complex financial matrimonial matters (ancillary relief) relating to the breakdown of a marriage/relationship, with a broad practice representing parents, family members and children through their Guardian in all children public law proceedings.
Since 2013, Duncan Lewis has an established Islamic & Sharia Law team which specialises in Islamic Divorce, Islamic Financial Settlement & Mahr Claims under English Law.
For expert advice, contact one of our team of specialist solicitors on 033 3772 0409.