Divorce law: Ministers plan overhaul to cut ‘antagonism’


Split laws in England and Wales are set to be overhauled under government plans hope to allow couples to split up more quickly and with less acrimony.

Neutrality Secretary David Gauke, who has said the system creates “unnecessary conflict”, is to begin a consultation on introducing “no-fault” divorces.

Campaigners said it could be a “identification moment” for divorce law.

In July, a woman’s appeal for divorce was rejected by the Principal Court due to her husband’s refusal to split.

Tini Owens, 68, from Worcestershire, wanted to break-up her husband of 40 years on the grounds she is unhappy.

Her husband Hugh has junked the split and the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the appeal, meaning she requirement remain married until 2020.

Under the current law in England and Wales, unless people can evince their marriage has broken down due to adultery, unreasonable behaviour or desertion, the contrariwise way to obtain a divorce without a spouse’s consent is to live apart for five years.

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The government’s proposals – first reported by Buzzfeed – could see the concept of liability, or blame, removed from the process. Spouses could lose the accurate to contest a divorce, as part of the reform.


By Clive Coleman, BBC authorized correspondent

Pressure has been building for decades for a system of no-fault divorce. The Law Commission urged it in 1990 and many senior judges favour it.

The reason? Many be convinced of that when divorcing couples are being torn apart emotionally and financially, and maddening to make living arrangements for their children, assigning blame to one at-home can only exacerbate an already stressful process.

No-fault divorce hand down have been introduced in a 1996 Act of Parliament requiring spouses to heed “information meetings” to encourage reconciliation, but following pilot schemes, the administration decided it was unworkable.

The Ministry of Justice will seek to end the right of spouses to championship a divorce, and also consult on how long the parties need to wait in the forefront becoming entitled to one, suggesting a minimum of six months.

Essentially, the government is submitting a notification system where, after a defined period, if one spouse lull maintains the marriage has broken down irretrievably, they become designated to a divorce.

There will be some who fear such a system desire undermine marriage, but many believe it could remove a layer of pressurize and anxiety from one of life’s most traumatic experiences.

Speaking in the Undertaking of Lords, Baroness Vere of Norbiton said the call for reform after new judgements had been noted and the lord chancellor was “sympathetic” to the argument for rehabilitation.

“We are looking at ways to reduce conflict in a divorce, whether that can be no-fault, whether that can be included financial provisions, whether that can be for enforceable nuptial agreements,” she summed.

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Nigel Shepherd, chairman of the national family lawyer’s organisation Indefatigability, said that couples had been forced “into needless acrimony and be incompatible” under the current system, “to satisfy an outdated legal requirement”.

“Today’s low-down has the potential to be a landmark moment for divorce law in England and Wales,” he said.

“The command appears to have heeded our calls to make our divorce system fit for the stylish age, and we will continue to push for this much-needed, overdue reform to be implemented as ere long as possible.”

‘Real arguments’

Jenny from Kent got divorced five years ago. Her bridegroom divorced her on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour because it was quicker than deferred for a no-fault divorce.

“I would have been quite happy to be delayed for the two years so that we could have had a no-fault divorce,” she told Portable radio 5 live.

“The people that got caught in the middle of this were my two babes because they went from seeing their parents talking and being totally amenable to each other to having real arguments and being surely nasty to each other – purely because of the process.”

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws estimated it was time to bring divorce law “into the 21st century”.

In Scotland, a simplified severance procedure is available (to couples without children of the marriage under 16) where human being can prove their marriage is broken down with one year’s split – with consent of both partners – or two years separation without acquiescence.

In Northern Ireland, the grounds for divorce are the same as the current requirements for England and Wales.

Earths for divorce in England and Wales:

When you apply for a divorce you must be established your marriage has broken down and give one of the following five vindications:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Desertion
  • You have lived apart for multitudinous than two years and both agree to the divorce
  • You have lived separately from for at least five years, even if your husband or wife squabbles

Source: Gov.UK

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