News and Events

Divorce- Reforms to end the "blame game"

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In the last year, in England and Wales, some 118,000 people commenced divorce proceedings. Currently divorce laws mean spouses have to provide evidence for a divorce if one partner does not agree to it.

Under current laws, unless someone can prove there was adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the only way to get divorced without a spouse's agreement is to live apart for five years.

The new divorce rules will mean that instead of having to provide evidence about a spouse's behaviour or length of separation, one side will now only have to submit a "statement of irretrievable breakdown" to say the marriage has broken down. A six-month minimum period will be introduced between the lodging of a petition to the divorce being made final.

The outdated fault-based divorce system led parting couples to apportion blame. The new laws intend for there to be less acrimony between separating spouses.

A partner will also no longer be able to contest a divorce which will prevent the rules from being misused by abusers who try to continue their controlling behaviour. This is great news for both practitioners who have spent years petitioning for reform of the outdated laws and also for couples who understand that their marriage has come to an end.

The current two-stage process of a decree nisi - a document which says the court cannot see any reason why you cannot divorce - followed by a decree absolute, the legal document which ends a marriage, will remain the same.

Couples will also be able to make joint divorce applications, alongside the current option for one partner to start the process. The “end to the blame game” should also allow parents to co-parent without high levels of animosity.

Similar changes will also be made to the law governing the dissolution of civil partnerships.

Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society of England and Wales, welcomed the changes and said “Introducing a 'no fault' divorce will change the way couples obtain a divorce- for the better”

The Ministry of Justice have confirmed that the new legislation is expected to be introduced as soon as parliamentary time allows.