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Lawyers welcome reform of divorce laws to enable no-fault divorce

9 April 2019

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The Law Society of England and Wales has welcomed the government’s proposed reforms of divorce law today, after a consultation found family law practitioners to be broadly in support of the change.

Divorcing couples will no longer have to appoint blame for the breakdown of their marriage, under the new ‘no-fault’ divorce law announced by the government today (9 April). 

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws (pictured) said the reform was “long overdue” and will bring the law “into the 21st century”.

She said the existing requirement to assign blame to one or other partner “exacerbates tensions between separating couples” and “for separating parents, it can be much more difficult to focus on the needs of their children”.

Meanwhile, she said that forcing couples to wait two or five years while they agree terms extends the process making it “more difficult for couples to move on amicably and co-parent”.

Announcing the change today, Justice Secretary David Gauke said that the amendment to the UK’s 50-year-old divorce law was intended to reduce family conflict when relationships breakdown.

The government hopes the new terms will create conditions conducive to couples reconciling where possible, or moving on constructively - particularly with regards to their parental duties - if they cannot.

The move follows a 12-week public consultation: Reducing Family Conflict: reform of the legal requirements for divorce, which was published on 15 September 2018 and closed on 10 December 2018.

The government said family justice professionals, who responded to the paper, were broadly supportive of reform. 

According to a statement released by the government today, the new legislation is expected to be introduced as “soon as Parliamentary time allows”.

Current divorce law requires couples seeking divorce to give evidence of one or more of five facts; three of which are based on fault and two on a period of separation.

Gauke said: “Hostility and conflict between parents leave their mark on children and can damage their life chances.

“While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.”

Proposals for changes to the law include retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce and replacing the ned to provide evidence of behaviour or separation with a statement of irretrievable breakdown.

Decree nisi and decree absolute will remain but the ability to contest a divorce will be removed. This is understood to currently be used in less than 2% of cases.

The government proposed creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process.

It also proposes a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from petition stage to final divorce.

Categorised in:

Family Children Divorce