What a week it has been in family law as the government finally announced its plans for reform to the current divorce law in England and Wales.
Welcomed by us all at Stowe, the reform will see the introduction of “no-fault” divorce and the removal of the need to allocate blame on one party.
Mark Christie from our Harrogate office, has over 35 years family law experience with a focus on divorce, separation and private law children disputes. He joins us today to share his views on the reform of our current “somewhat archaic grounds for divorce.”
This week, the government, after much lobbying from Resolution-First for Family Law, the organisation representing specialist family lawyers for a reform of the somewhat archaic grounds for divorce, announced that it will legislate to reform the grounds for divorce.
The current law necessitates a couple who wish to have a divorce, relying upon one of five separate facts, three of which are fault-based, i.e. adultery, behaviour (often colloquially referred to as unreasonable behaviour) and two years desertion.
In this new announcement, which has been long awaited and which will see the biggest reform in our divorce laws for 50 years, it is proposed that the law will be changed to remove the fault-based facts and for the parties to simply provide a statement to the effect that the marriage has broken down irretrievably.
It is also proposed that the ability to defend a divorce will be removed and that couples can jointly apply to the Court for a divorce.
Once such legislation is passed, it is hoped that couples will be able to obtain a divorce in a much less hostile environment without having to blame each other, and which currently causes unnecessary emotional turmoil to not only the couple divorcing but also to any children of the marriage.
Once it is possible to obtain a divorce without having to blame each other, couples will be able to bring their marriage to an end in a much more amicable manner, which will enhance the prospect of them retaining a reasonable relationship with each other, and so enable them to better co-parent their children and agree on a financial settlement.
Of course, there will be the usual traditionalist criticism of such a move, arguing that making divorce easier undermines the institute of marriage.
The reality, however, is that the proposed legislation will not make the obtaining of divorce any easier but will just remove the “blame game” from the process to the benefit of all parties and any children concerned.
It may be that once the changes come into effect, there will be an initial spike in the divorce rate, but this will only be short lived.
It is to be hoped that the legislation will come into force as quickly as possible, though, considering the current Brexit situation, it is anyone’s guess as to when there will be sufficient parliamentary time available to pass the requisite legislation.