Divorce law has remained unchanged for over 50 years. Now the government is set reform the law that stipulates divorcing couples must have been separated for over two years or one must blame the other for the marriage breakdown, citing adultery or unreasonable behaviour. Even if both partners mutually agree the relationship is over, they still must apportion blame if they wish to waive the two-year waiting period.
Ministers are acting to change the law after responses also 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.
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 While we will always uphold the institution of marriage, it cannot be right that our outdated law creates or increases conflict between divorcing couples.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.”
Proposals for changes to the law include:
- retaining the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage as the sole ground for divorce
- replacing the requirement to provide evidence of a ‘fact’ around behaviour or separation with a requirement to provide a statement of irretrievable breakdown
- retaining the two-stage legal process currently referred to as decree nisi and decree absolute
- creating the option of a joint application for divorce, alongside retaining the option for one party to initiate the process
- removing the ability to contest a divorce
- introducing a minimum timeframe of 6 months, from petition stage to final divorce (20 weeks from petition stage to decree nisi; 6 weeks from decree nisi to decree absolute).
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