At present divorcing couples need to demonstrate that their marriage has irretrievably broken down and are forced to blame each other for that by providing evidence of a ‘fact’ that their spouse has behaved unreasonably, has committed adultery or deserted them, unless they prove that they have lived apart for two years with the other’s consent or five years without that consent.
The Government announced in 2018 that, subject to consultation, it was its intention to reform the legal requirement for divorce, shifting the focus from blame to support adults better to focus on making future arrangements for themselves and their children.
New research published by the Nuffield Foundation, following examination of divorce law reform in Australia, California, Colorado, Finland, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and Sweden, argues that the proposal for such a change is fully consistent with international trends and, further, they found that there is an international trend towards recognition that a divorce must be granted where one of the parties insists that the marriage is over.
The campaign for change has been rumbling on for many years. I remember Baroness Hale first introducing the concept of a ‘no-fault’ style divorce more than twenty years ago but that did not make it on to the Statute books.
The consultation in which family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce voiced their support for reform has been concluded.
Resolution, which is a group of about 6,500 family law professionals who are committed to allowing couples to deal with the consequences of relationship breakdown with as little acrimony as possible by ending their marriages with dignity and by avoiding unnecessary conflict, has welcomed the Justice Secretary’s recent announcement that he will bring forward legislation to introduce no-fault divorce. The intention is that new legislation will be introduced to Parliament to update our fifty year old divorce law.
The proposals for change include retaining irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce but replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown and introducing a minimum timeframe of six months from divorce petition being filed with the Court to final decree.
We will have to wait to see if Parliament has enough time to get the proposed new legislation on to the Statute book.
Dawn Pennell is a Chartered Legal Executive and Collaborative Lawyer dealing with family law matters at Capron & Helliwell.
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This article aims to supply general information but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek specific advice. This article was written on 18th
April 2019 and the law may change following this date.