The government has announced it is overhauling the law on divorce for the first time in over 50 years.
Proposals unveiled by Justice Secretary David Gauke MP today should make it easier for people to gain a so-called no fault divorce, ending the need to play the blame game.
Currently a spouse who wants to divorce has to prove that their partner has committed adultery, that there has been an irretrievable break down of the marriage or prove they have been deserted by their partner.
If none of these apply the couple will have to wait anywhere between two and five years for the legal dissolution of their marriage to start.
Many family lawyers say the current laws cause unnecessary additional acrimony at a time that emotions are naturally running very high. This can lead to biter break-ups with hurtful consequences for all involved, including children.
At Clowes & Co, we’d welcome a change as, being pragmatic, relationships can and do break down and it is beneficial for all to ensure a divorce is completed without making a fraught situation even worse.
The unfairness of this system was brought to a head last year, when the case of Tini Owens was brought to the UK’s Supreme Court. She had wanted to divorce her husband of 40 years since 2015, on the grounds that she was unhappy in the marriage, however, her husband refused to agree to the split. When the case was heard in the Supreme Court, they found in favour of the divorce legislation, which means the couple have to remain married until 2020.
Sir James Munby, a recent Head of the Family Division of the High Court and one of the country’s most senior family judges, said that current system was hindered by a “lack of intellectual honesty” and called for reform.
If agreed, the new law will mean couples will only have to state that their marriage has broken down irretrievably in order to start divorce proceedings. A minimum time-frame of six months will be introduced along with the new legislation, allowing both parties of the marriage a “meaningful period of reflection” and the “opportunity to turn back” before the legal document that ends a marriage is finalised.
It will no longer be possible for one party to ‘refuse’ a divorce.
Unfortunately, it is unclear when Parliamentary time will be available to debate the proposed reforms. The Ministry of Justice states legislation will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Sadly, we may have to wait sometime as Brexit continues to take up a great deal of time in Westminster.
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