New divorce laws will allow couples to get divorced without having to place blame one side for the breakdown of the marriage. Hopes are that couples can divorce faster, and with less animosity
Currently, one spouse has to allege adultery or unreasonable behaviour by the other for divorce proceedings to start. Under the new legislation, people would no longer have to show evidence proving adultery or unreasonable behaviour in order to separate, and instead will be able to provide a statement of “irretrievable breakdown.”
Ministers changed the law after a public consultation where family justice professionals and those with direct experience of divorce revealed that the current system can work against any prospect of reconciliation, and can be damaging to children by undermining the relationship between parents after divorce, according to a government announcement. Legislation is expected to be introduced to Parliament in the next few months.
Justice Secretary David 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 While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples. So I have listened to calls for reform and firmly believe now is the right time to end this unnecessary blame game for good.”
Former Chair of national family justice body Resolution, Nigel Shepherd, who has been a long-time campaigner for no fault divorce, said, “We welcome these proposals, which almost entirely reflect Resolution’s response to the consultation, and we’re pleased the government has listened to calls from our members and others to introduce these changes.
“As someone who’s campaigned on this issue throughout my career, I’m delighted that today we are a step closer to reforming our outdated divorce laws. Resolution members will always try to help couples deal with the consequences of relationship breakdown with as little acrimony as possible, but the current divorce law makes this so much more difficult. With this new legislation, finally our divorce laws will be brought up to date – helping divorcing couples and, most importantly, any children they may have, avoid unnecessary conflict.”
Counselling Directory member Pam Custers, who specialises in couples and relationship counselling, said that the new law will be a “game changer.”
“The decision to introduce a no-fault divorce is going to be a game changer in the way that couples and families are able to take their lives forward after a divorce. The reality is that not all couples are able to sustain a marriage, and indeed it may be in the best interests of everyone for a divorce to take place.
“The manner in which a divorce takes place colours how the divorced couple engage with each other in the future. A highly hostile divorce process inevitably sets the tone by which all other discussions take place, including child care arrangements.
“Up until now, divorce has been a polarising process whereby one needs to be combative and defensive. The new ruling allows for partners to part ways respectfully, and that reduces the hostilities. Couples who make the conscious decision to part ‘well’ are giving their children the greatest gift. Children will then not be drawn into the hostilities or side-taking. Thank heavens for the new ruling. Children’s mental health at last has been taken into account - not to mention their parents’ too.”
Resolution’s current Chair, Margaret Heathcote, stated called today’s announcement “an important move” towards ending the blame game.
“We remain concerned that so much government and Parliamentary time is being spent on Brexit and other issues at the moment, and look forward to working with the Ministry of Justice and others to ensure the law is changed at the earliest possible opportunity.
“If you’re separating, and you’re faced with having to make unnecessary and unhelpful accusations against your ex on the divorce petition, there is nothing more important than this reform in the law. Let’s now get on with it, and make our divorce law fit for purpose.”
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Photo by Zoriana Stakhniv on Unsplash