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Divorce: An end to the ‘Blame Game’

Justice Secretary David Gauke announced yesterday that the law will be changed to allow couples to divorce on the grounds that the marriage has broken down without having to make accusations of wrongdoing by one party.

At present the law is very black and white, leading to a position where, unless there has been a period of separation of at least two years, one party is at blame and the other party is the victim.

However this black and white approach isn’t representative of current social norms and doesn’t allow protection for couples who simply fall out of love with each other and no longer wish to be married.

Currently, ‘no-fault’ applications account for a large proportion of divorce petitions each year. However the law only allows for no-fault divorces to be brought after two years of separation, if both parties agree, or five years of separation, if one party contests the divorce.

Therefore these suggested adaptions to the law show that the government is keen for it to be more in line with social norms in the 21st century.

The new law also follows the outcome of the case of Owens v Owens which we reported on in July 2018, whereby the Supreme Court ruled that Mrs Owens couldn’t divorce her husband because she couldn’t prove that he had behaved unreasonably, with many media outlets reporting that Mrs Owens was ‘trapped’ in a loveless marriage.

The new law will remove the time restraints attached to divorce applications and will include a ‘cooling off’ period to allow each party time for reflection (allowing them to change their minds if they wish).

The government stated that the move to a more amicable system will allow families to proceed through the divorce process in a less stressful and conflicting manner. Mr Gauke said: “overhauling divorce law could help prevent conflict between parents, which in turn risk damaging their children’s futures”.

There has been no date announced for the new law to be brought in but this is seen as a very proactive and much needed step towards change of very outdated legislation.

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Paul Lancaster

Partner
Family Law
PLancaster@LawBlacks.com
0113 227 9285
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