Divorce laws overhaul will ‘end blame game’ for couples

Home   »   News   »   Divorce laws overhaul will ‘end blame game’ for couples

Current laws mean spouses have to provide evidence for a divorce if one partner does not agree to it.

Divorce laws are being overhauled for the first time in 50 years to end the “blame game” of couples trying to end their marriage.

Under current laws in England and Wales, unless someone can prove there was adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to get divorced without a spouse’s agreement is to live apart for five years.

Instead of having to provide evidence about their spouse’s behaviour or length of separation, one side will now only have to submit a “statement of irretrievable breakdown” to say the marriage has broken down.

The ability of a partner to contest a divorce will also be scrapped.

Although only used in under 2% of cases, the Ministry of Justice says it is sometimes misused by abusers to continue their controlling behaviour.

The current two-stage process of a decree nisi – a document which says the court cannot see any reason why you cannot divorce – followed by a decree absolute, the legal document which ends a marriage, will remain the same.

However, a six-month minimum period will be introduced between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.

Couples will also be able to make joint divorce applications, alongside the current option for one partner to start the process.

Some 118,000 people began the divorce process in England and Wales last year.

Similar changes will also be made to the law governing the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.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.”

Chief executive of charity Relate, Aidan Jones, said the changes were “much-needed” and welcomed the introduction of a minimum time-frame for the divorce process.

He said: “The outdated fault-based divorce system led parting couples to apportion blame, often resulting in increased animosity and making it harder for ex-partners to develop positive relationships as co-parents.

“While divorce isn’t a decision that people tend to take lightly, we do support the extension of the minimum time-frame which will allow more time to reflect, give things another go if appropriate, and access support such as relationship counselling or mediation.”

Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, welcomed the changes to a system which she said currently “exacerbates tensions” between couples.

She added: “The government’s decision to introduce a ‘no fault’ divorce will help to cut some of the conflict from what can be a highly stressful experience.

“For separating parents, it can be much more difficult to focus on the needs of their children when they have to prove a fault-based fact against their former partner.

“Introducing a ‘no fault’ divorce will change the way couples obtain a divorce – for the better.”

The overhaul follows a government consultation last year, when details of the proposals were first unveiled.

The Ministry of Justice said the new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.


Read the full story on Sky News website.

To book a no-obligation, confidential, free initial consultation, or find out more information about how we can help you.

(Out of office appointments available by prior arrangement)