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Divorce law – time for reform?

Going through a divorce can be difficult at the best of times, further complicated by current divorce law.

At present, the law states that to get divorced, one must show an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage based on one of the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • 2 years separation with consent
  • 5 years separation with no consent

The first three of these grounds require a fault-based reason in order for a divorce to be granted in less than two years of a marriage breaking down.

According to recent statistics from the family law organisation Resolution, of the 118,000 divorces each year, more than 27% of couples admitted their reason for divorce claims were not true but were the easiest way of getting a divorce. The chair of Resolution explained that “the current system is causing couples to make false allegations in court in order to have their divorce finalised within a reasonable time”.

The reason why is because if you want a fairly quick divorce then people are forced to come up with reasons about the other person’s unreasonable behaviour; whether or not they were/are actually unreasonable! If you don’t want to drag your Husband/Wife’s name through the mud then you will have to wait until you have been separated for two years. It’s a totally bizarre situation for people who are living totally separate lives & who have separated both emotionally & financially to have to wait until they have been separated 2 years before they can Petition for divorce without blaming the other person.

Clearly this is problematic as people are agreeing to untrue allegations just to get their divorce settled more quickly. Furthermore, the breakdown of a relationship is usually a two way street and making it entirely the other person`s fault (whether or not that is the case) creates distress, confusion and conflict between the parties. As the divorce grounds almost never impact upon the financial matters in any way then then the current regime is totally old hat, in a society whereby it is now extremely common to be divorced/separated or re-married! The law in this area dates back to the 1970’s when divorces and separations were a bit less common…

Time for change then..?

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division has singled out the need for reform of divorce law. He suggests the time has come to remove concepts of fault as a basis for divorce and also proposes separating the divorce process from the financial proceedings process. This would mean people would finally be able to divorce without having to blame someone. Fingers crossed.

Resolution also agree with this approach, “removing blame from divorce will not make it more likely that people will separate. It will simply make it easier for people to manage their separation with as little conflict and stress as possible and reduce the likelihood that they will end up in court.”

Although things are unlikely to change immediately, Conservative MP Richard Bacon has argued for the need of a ‘no fault divorce’ in a recent ten minute rule bill. He proposes no grounds would need to be shown as to why the marriage has irretrievably broken down when submitting a divorce petition. The intention behind this would be to reduce the negative impact of divorces, a change everyone would like to see!

In the meantime, if you need legal assistance with the current divorce process then please contact us. We’re divorce experts don’t you know!


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