New Divorce Law Coming

After years of campaigning by family lawyers the government has at last announced that they will be introducing a new law which will allow married couples to divorce without the need to attribute blame.

For over forty years divorcing couples have needed make an allegation of fault if they wished to divorce immediately, failing which they would have to wait until they had been separated for two or five years before they could petition.

The campaign for no fault divorce was further fuelled following the Supreme Court decision in the case of Owens v Owens in which Mrs Owens was denied a divorce as she had failed to prove sufficiently the content of her divorce petition based on the alleged unreasonable behaviour of Mr Owens.

Surveys carried out by Resolution, a Family Law Group who campaign for a fairer family justice system, demonstrated an overwhelming support to remove blame from the divorce process in order to minimise conflict between divorcing couples at a time when emotions are undoubtedly already running high.

In their 2018 Good Divorce Week Resolution focused on the impact on children of acrimony caused as a consequence of divorce proceedings, finding that over ¾ of the population agreed that divorce or separation could affect negatively children’s health and academic performance.

Following a public consultation the Justice Secretary announced on 9th April 2019 that there would be a new law introduced to help reduce family conflict stating that whilst the government “will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples”.

Proposals for new changes to the law include:

  • Retaining the requirement to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage as the sole ground for divorce.
  • Replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a “fact” (either based on behaviour or separation) with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown.
  • Retaining the current two stage legal process referred to as Decree Nisi and Decree Absolute.
  • Creating the option for a joint application for divorce in addition to the current system where one party initiates the process.
  • Removing the ability to contest a divorce.
  • Introducing a minimum time frame from petition to the final stage of divorce to allow parties time to reflect and access support if appropriate.

There is no time estimate for long it will take the government to introduce the proposed new legislation, and Brexit is likely to keep ministers pre-occupied for some time yet! In the meantime couples wishing to divorce will have to continue with the current system, but the family lawyers at MCP are members of Resolution and are committed to reducing conflict and adopting a non-confrontational approach which aims to engage with the other party.

If you require help and advice following the breakdown of your marriage please call any of our family departments  - in Wisbech 01945 464331, in  Thetford and King's Lynn on 01842 756110 and in Peterborough on 01733 895054.