The Justice Secretary has committed the government to reforming divorce law through legislation in the next Parliamentary session, which starts in May 2019.
The current law states that there is only one legal ground for divorce, which is that the marriage has irretrievably broken down. The individual who starts the proceedings (the ‘petitioner’) must prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by establishing one of the following five facts:-
- There has been adultery and the petitioner finds it intolerable to live with the other (the ‘respondent’).
- The petitioner cannot reasonably be expected to live with the respondent because of their behaviour (“the behaviour petition”).
- Two years separation with consent.
- Five years separation (no consent required).
Therefore, if a couple has been separated for less than two years and they wish to get divorced, then one of them must ‘blame’ the other by either alleging adultery or unreasonable behaviour which has caused the marriage to come to an end. This has been the law in England and Wales since 1973 and, in comparison to other approaches in jurisdictions around the world, this seems rather outdated.
A reform in this area of law to provide for a ‘no-fault’ divorce would afford couples the opportunity to end their marriage without the need to apportion blame, ultimately reducing distress and conflict and hopefully encouraging parties to conduct their separation in an amicable and civil manner.
This recent and significant development is a real testament to the energy and commitment demonstrated by Resolution and other organisations in their campaigning over the years to reform the law which many professionals agree is now ill-suited to modern society.
Nigel Shepherd, former Chair of Resolution, has commented:
“Our members, and the families they work with, will be delighted that, after years of campaigning, we are now so close to ending the ‘blame game’ that many divorcing couples are currently forced to play.
There is clearly much detail still to agree, and we’ll be providing Ministers and officials with all the support we can to help this new legislation come forward, and be enacted, as soon as possible.”
‘No-fault’ divorce has been a popular topic of discussion for some time and there is more information about the background and journey in our previous article here.
If you would like to know about the issues discussed in this article or you would like assistance in respect of a relationship breakdown then please contact the Family Team on 01603 610911.
Note: The content of this article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken in any specific circumstance.