As it stands, in order to divorce, unless the parties have been separated for at least two years, one spouse has to allege adultery, cite unreasonable behaviour or desertion to begin divorce proceedings. This can further strain the relationship as blame has to be placed on one spouse. This can make an already difficult time worse for divorcing couples, and especially for divorcing parents to focus on their children, as they can be preoccupied with who’s to blame.
But this is now changing.
Going forward, a spouse will now only need to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This new change will also prevent one spouse refusing the divorce if their spouse wants one.
These changes come after the case of Tini Owens who wants to divorce her husband of 40 years, Hugh, as she said she is ‘unhappy’.
However, in July 2018, five justices upheld rulings by a family court and the Court of Appeal that Tini must stay married to Hugh, denying her petition and preventing her from getting a divorce until 2020 when she will have been separated for five years and will no longer need her spouse’s consent.
This new law change will put a stop to people feeling unable to divorce in case their spouse contests it. It will also alleviate the pressure to put blame on one another.
Currently, you need to have a reason to prove that your marriage has broken down irretrievably. This has to be one of the following:
- Unreasonable behaviour
- Separated for two years with consent
- Separated for five years without consent
Gill Graveson, Partner and Family Lawyer at Birchall Blackburn Law said of the news: “The single ground for divorce being that the marriage has irretrievably broken down has been the law since the 1973 Matrimonial Causes Act was passed. The need to further lay blame is antiquated and often causes more disharmony in the family unit, so any reform to remove the element of blame must be in the right direction.”
Sally Abrams of Birchall Blackburn Law commented today “I am delighted to see after much consultation and campaigning in recent years that at last there is to be a move away from our fault based divorce system whilst retaining the underlying concept of “irretrievable breakdown” of marriage. This will certainly assist in preventing unnecessary conflict at the outset and allow parties to concentrate on the important aspects such as resolving financial issues and arrangements for the care of any children of the family.
The National Family Justice Body, Resolution, has been campaigning for this change for over 30 years. Resolution’s former Chair and long-time campaigner for ‘no fault divorce,’ Nigel Shepherd, 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.
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Information from the Gov website: https://www.gov.uk/divorce/grounds-for-divorce