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Changes to divorce law today mean that it is now possible to obtain a divorce where nobody is to blame.
Until now, there has been only one ground for divorce - irretrievable breakdown of marriage, but this has had to be based on one of five facts, which included behaviour and adultery. This effectively forced couples who did not want to wait 2 years (for a divorce with the other spouse’s consent) or 5 years (if the other spouse did not consent) to “blame” the other for the breakdown of the marriage.
As family lawyers, we have seen the far reaching impact of this. By having to cite examples of a spouse’s behaviour, you are potentially increasing the animosity and acrimony that we are all hoping to bring to an end. This has been particularly difficult in cases involving children when the husband and wife simply wanted to divorce, perhaps quite amicably, and continue to parent together. It is made all the harder to achieve this where one spouse has to read a list of negative behaviours raised by the other. Unfortunately the law at the time did not permit the Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow style of ‘conscious uncoupling’.
From when the reforms take effect, the only requirement will be irretrievable breakdown of marriage; it is hailed as being the end to the “blame game”.
The other significant change announced today is that the other spouse will not be able to prevent the divorce from going ahead. This has caused issues previously and can be linked to coercive and controlling behaviour – it has been possible for a spouse to defend and cross petition thus frustrating the process and making it protracted and convoluted for both parties.
There are no clear timescales for when the reforms will be enacted currently, and the only information available at this stage is “when Parliamentary time allows” - currently the government is rather busy dealing with other matters! So divorce lawyers up and down the land are calling “move over Brexit”!
There will still be a minimum time frame of six months to allow spouses to reflect during the process and ensure that the correct decisions are being made. We also welcome the move for it to be possible for couples to apply jointly for a divorce, which has never previously been an option.
This represents the biggest reform in divorce for over 50 years, it is an exciting time and a much longed-for reform. It brings the dissolution of marriage in line with the present day relationships, and will hopefully allow couples who have separated and subsequently divorced to continue to move forward in a family-focussed way without the inherent negativity which surrounds the current system.
If you need expert advice on any aspect of divorce, separation, or financial or children’s matters arising from relationship breakdown then call our team today on 0114 2495969. We are always happy to provide a free 30-minute consultation with a qualified solicitor to discuss your matter.