The government has now provided more details about its proposed reforms to the current divorce law in England and Wales.
At the moment, the only way to obtain a divorce is to prove that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and to do so by relying upon one or more reasons, or “facts.” These include the other person’s adultery or “unreasonable behaviour.” 60% of divorce petitions rely on one of these and blame the other party.
The three remaining reasons are two years separation and the other person’s consent or five year’s separation without consent and the barely used desertion.
Announcing the introduction of “no-fault” divorce, the government proposes to abolish all those reasons and replace them with just one ground, namely a statement from one, or both parties, that their marriage has broken down irretrievably.
It will be impossible to defend or resist a divorce in future.
There has been a considerable amount of research which suggests only too clearly the enormous damage which the current system of “blame” inflicts on families, the couple themselves as well as their children.
There has also been an enormous amount of pressure on successive governments to reform the divorce law in this country which has been in place for 50 years since the last time parliament was involved in 1969.
The proposals announced today represent radical social change, bring the law up-to-date and deserve widespread support both inside and outside the Houses of Parliament.
Similar reforms will be made in relation to the dissolution of civil partnerships.
There will still be a two-stage process which will have a minimum timeframe of six months. At the end of that period, the applicant for the divorce will need to affirm their decision to seek a divorce. The government explains that this will “provide a meaningful period of reflection and the opportunity to turn back.”
What is not known yet is, if and how that period might be extended. For example, will the divorce only be finalised once arrangements for any children have been made and financial matters resolved?
Our own internal research revealed last year that there was enormous support from practising family lawyers for reforms such as those announced today.
No timescale for legislation has been announced.
The hope must be that even in the present turbulent political climate that parliament will make sure it finds time to make sure that these proposals become law very soon.
Tuesday, 9 April 2019