New Divorce Law – Change at Last!

Posted: 12 April 2019

 The government have announced a dramatic change to the divorce laws in England and Wales the likes of which we have not seen for nearly 50 years.

Dispensing with the need to cast blame to justify a divorce on the basis of irretrievable breakdown – or the so called no fault divorce – is something which many in the legal profession have been seeking for years now.

The government were driven to do something following the widely publicised case of Owens and Owens which found its way to the Supreme Court last year. There Mrs Owens found herself locked in a marriage which she felt had clearly broken down many moons ago because a Judge concluded the behaviour complained of was not sufficient to justify the granting of a divorce decree. The appellant Courts, although had some sympathy with Mrs Owen, felt unable to overturn the decision.

The government had to act and have now announced new legislation which it hopes to pass in the current parliament. That is by no means certain but the Justice Minister is confident.

The essence of the proposed law is that a party instigating divorce proceedings need only cite irretrievable breakdown. The other party will not be able to oppose or defend the divorce as is available in the current format and there will be a 6 month period of reflection from start to finish. At the end of this period the petitioner will be required to continue to affirm their decision to seek a divorce before the divorce is granted.

In addition provision will also be made to allow couples to apply for a divorce jointly which will benefit couples who have separated mutually.

The current fault based divorce system is seen by many as archaic, stressful and only exasperates tensions, which in marriages involving children can have far reaching effects not only during the divorce process itself but afterwards. Even the two and five year separation facts are not seen as helping couples move on with their lives.

The time for change is now. It’s a question of whether parliamentary time will allow it.

If you have any questions about this change, or wish to seek advice generally about any Family Law matters including divorce, and Children issues, please contact our Family Team headed by Partner Richard Chinery.

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