The Justice Secretary has announced a major overhaul to divorce laws in England and Wales which will involve the biggest change in 50 years. The decision is welcomed by many divorce solicitors.
At the moment, to be granted a divorce, the person bringing the proceedings must establish that the marriage has irretrievably broken down by proving one of the following facts;
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Two years’ separation (if the other party agrees to a divorce)
- Five years’ separation
Therefore under the current law the nearest we have to a no fault divorce is where the divorce is granted on the basis of two or five years’ separation.
However, if a party wishes to obtain a divorce straight away, then under the current rules he or she must allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour.
The need for one party to blame the other often results in hostility and conflict. A particular concern is the negative impact this can have on any children. Bringing to an end the unnecessary ‘blame game’ in divorce proceedings is the driving force behind the changes, announced by the Justice Secretary this morning.
The new legislation will retain the underlying concept of irretrievable breakdown.
However, it will no longer be necessary to establish one of the facts, nor in the future will it be possible for one party to oppose the granting of a divorce.
Instead, after what the Government has described as ‘a meaningful period of reflection’ of not less than six months, the party bringing the proceedings can apply to dissolve the marriage.
Morecrofts divorce solicitors recognise that these reforms will not be universally supported as some people hold the view they will further weaken the institution of marriage. However, in our experience divorce is not a step that is taken lightly and therefore we are supportive of the overhaul which will bring to an end what the Justice Secretary has described as the ‘unnecessary blame game’ in divorce proceedings.
The announcement this morning indicated new legislation would be introduced ‘as soon as Parliamentary time allows’.
Clearly, as we all know Parliament is preoccupied on another matter at the moment so we will have to wait and see how quickly the Government prioritises the overhaul of divorce law.